“We don’t sell socks We sell Technology” Euan Sparrow, CEO
Introducing the latest breakthrough in foot comfort from New Zealands’s own sock engineers. Merino-Tec by NZ Sock Co now incorporating NuYarn®. These socks are the culmination of our design expertise and our enthusiasm for the outdoors. Technically enhanced comfort (TEC) socks for the serious outdoor and sports person! Launching 1st December 2016 Available from www.nzsock.co.nz
POLYAMIDE 50% STRONGER
Matthew Hill : Beyond the Ultimate Jungle Ultra : Mikkel Beisner
OUR MISSION For Rangers are a dedicated group of individuals who are raising money for the welfare of rangers who risk their lives daily to protect Africa’s endangered species. They hope that by taking part in some of the hardest, most challenging endurance events on the planet, they can draw attention not only to the plight of Africa’s wildlife and the poaching crisis, but the hardships and dangers the rangers are exposed to in trying to protect our wildlife - and in doing so, raise funds that go directly towards rangers’ welfare. www.forrangers.com/donate
PUBLISHER + EDITOR + CREATIVE Hollie Woodhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org COPY EDITOR Boo Woodhouse MARKETING AND SALES Meme Nix | email@example.com
FRONT COVER The Longest Day Page 24 Image: Justin James
BACK COVER A Very Modern Village Page 10 Image: Dan Kerins
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Published by The Adventurous Kiwi Printed by Spectrum Print, Christchurch, New Zealand ISSN: 2422 8850 ÂŠ Say Yes to Adventure. March 2017. All rights reserved. Nothing in whole or in part in the magazine may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher and contributor. Say Yes to Adventure is a compilation of stories based around the epic experiences that come from the great outdoors. Therefore the views expressed in the articles are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publisher. Although information presented in Say Yes to Adventure is, to the best of our knowledge, accurate and credible, authors may not be experts in the respective subject matter. DISTRIBUTION / SUBSCRIPTION / DIGITAL Say Yes to Adventure is an independently published magazine. It is available for purchase worldwide at selected newsagents, bookstores and airport stores and can be purchased online at www.sytamagazine.com. Visit www.sytamagazine.com/stockists to find one near you. We are available for digital download via PressReader www.pressreader.com. CONTRIBUTION We collaborate with creative individuals from all over the globe. If you love adventure and have a story youâ€™d like to share, simply send us an email; we would love to hear from you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.sytamagazine.com/contributors for more information.
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A VERY MODERN VILLAGE Dan Kerins
COSMIC SNOWDONIA Sam Gore
FAREWELL 74 Romilly Spiers
RAW AESTHETIC WORKS Tamas Cserep
THE LONGEST DAY Hollie Woodhouse
FIERCE 89 Justina MAKU Bisset
A RIDE THROUGH THE WOODS Steven Geddes
TREASURED ISLAND Annabel Wilson
GLORY 35 Holly Nekonam
A YEAR ON THE ROAD Carmen Huter
CHASING THE SUNRISE Jared Buckley
BEATING THE STORM Mรกrcio Bortolussso
THE GREAT ADVENTURE Ileana Soon
WHAT WAS IT LIKE? Dan Kerins
SHAKE AND BAKE Genevieve King
SPICED APPLE CAKE Genevieve King
MOUNTAIN DUES Mitch Collins
DOING IT THE NOR-WAY Sadao Tsuchiya
HOWLING WOLF Sarie Stegeman
FIVE PASSES, FOUR GIRLS Stephanie Lambie
COAST TO COAST RANGERS Hollie Woodhouse
CHO OYU Mike Heydon
NORTH AND SOUTH Alina-Andreea Popovici
Image: Emil Sollie / Red Bull Content Pool
the best part of adventure is everything.
Just as we were going to print with the last volume, a 7.8 earthquake struck central New Zealand, causing significant damage to both infrastructure and the landscape. In this volume, we feature two articles related to the events immediately following this once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Raft guide Genevieve King shares her experience while taking clients on a trip of a lifetime down the Clarence River. Exciting at the best of times – add a 7.8 earthquake to the mix, and you’ve got one heck of an adventure.
WE ALL KNOW the saying 'a picture tells a thousand words', and I'm sure this image above more than sums up my recent Kathmandu Coast to Coast experience. A multisport race from one side of New Zealand to the other, I knew as long as I reached the end of the kayak, I would be able to complete the race. And at this moment, I was metres from the shore, with only the last bike stage left between me and the finish line at New Brighton Beach. Known as one of the most iconic multisport races in the world, you can read more about my experience of the Longest Day on page 24.
We also feature Romilly Spiers, an Australian who was about to head to the UK for her O.E. Wanting to spend a few weeks in her own backyard before she left, she spent an entertaining two weeks on a solo mission cycling down Australia’s Great Ocean Road. While it ended up being a challenging mission, she learnt plenty along the way. And there’s nothing quite like a spur-of-the-moment decision. With the conditions just perfect for taking photographs of cosmic star trails in Snowdonia's National Park, Sam Gore headed out late one night to capture the magic. His images are magic, make sure you take a look on page 20.
This volume also marks two years in print, a milestone worth celebrating. As with any new business, it comes with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, a lot of hard graft but more importantly, the generosity and support of so many. We've come a long way from Volume One - a publication that was originally designed as a one-off, and I can honestly say each volume that goes out just gets better and better. The contributions in this volume are no different; the inspiration, the challenges and the successes are evident in every story, image and illustration. We can't do it without you and welcome all your feedback, not just the good but also how we can make sure we are the best and continually live up to expectations.
Enjoy the adventures,
Hollie Woodhouse Founder + Editor + Creative
email@example.com www.holliewoodhouse.com Fwww.facebook.com/theadventurouskiwi www.instagram.com/holliewoodhouse For Harry Dyer This magazine could not have been possible without the amazing generosity of so many people. Special mention to everyone who has contributed their inspiring stories, images and illustrations. Also to those who always support me no matter what crazy idea I come up with next: Boo and Hamish Woodhouse (Mum and Dad), Flick and Sam Taylor, Ben and Gina Woodhouse, Meme Nix, Jacqueline Manson and Scott Waterman.
A VERY MODERN VILLAGE WORDS AND IMAGES: Dan Kerins LOCATION: Borneo
One, as a rule, should avoid putting one’s life in the hands of teenagers. Clasping the welded metal bar on the back of the screeching, skeletal Chinese dirt bike with blistering hands, I realised, with a defeated sigh, I had. THE NARROW ORANGE path slithered its way higher into the Dyak Heartland as we spluttered phlegmy globules of oil and clay, negotiated chasmic divots, slid through pools of slippery leaves, and ducked stray branches. For several particularly nerve-shattering sections, there was little room between the handlebars and a precipitous bone-crushing fall into the primordial Bornean jungle below; a dark, thorny place where no one would hear your whimpers. On one curvaceous and exceptionally narrow section, the back end slid out again. I’m 90 kilos on a good day, a further ten with camera gear and personal effects on my back. As the back wheel juddered toward the reddish edge, I closed my eyes. The 18-year-old to whom I was entrusting my life managed to wedge
a calloused foot down and swing the wailing bike back around, saving us both from a night in the bush tending to rapidly festering wounds. Half an hour later, we reached a small red mud pass. The palpitating engine gave a sigh of relief as it was turned off, leaving us to freewheel down a death slide of clay and loose stones with only my young driver’s meaty feet and overdeveloped legs to control our descent into the valley and onward to the village of Pa’ Padi. Getting this far had taken some doing, including hitching a ride on a small Cessna piloted by the stoic, yet personable, John from the Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF). Say what you will about missionaries, these guys are out there doing it – a not-for-profit organisation and a much-revered vital lifeline for these remote communities. In this ruthless terrain, these guys save lives repeatedly, day in, day out. Flying
sick patients, soon-to-be-mothers and various life-preserving supplies from the coast, MAF makes a difference. My better half and I had been waiting it out in the swampy border town of Tarakan, in the northern reaches of Kalimantan, the Indonesian side of the island of Borneo, camping in our underwear beneath a fan to avoid the intense, muggy heat. We finally managed to secure two seats on the next flight, which involved me sitting in the co-pilot’s seat, trying desperately to suppress thoughts of an emergency landing in one of the brown rivers cutting geometric shapes across the forested shag-pile landscape below. The steamy green expanse began to ruffle and crease upward, until we were crossing a wild sea of mountain jungles and valleys, bright-clouded peaks and deep river-bottomed troughs. The wispy
clouds of the lowlands had now given way to bulbous white columns swaying above a range of mountains, John deftly moving through them like a waiter in a crowded room. Suddenly, he raised the little Cessna up and pitched the left wing to slip through a gap in the clouds, revealing a fertile plateau below. We spiralled to a textbook landing on a small runway in Long Bawan, the regional hub of the Krayan Highlands of northern Kalimantan. The Krayan are one of several tribes that make up the indigenous people of Borneo, collectively known as Dyaks. Former animists (the world’s oldest religion, where the belief is that all things – people, animals, plants, rocks – are alive and have a soul), the Krayan have lived in these vast hills for generations. They have a rich history, unrivalled knowledge of the landscape and a deeply-rooted culture that has managed to thrive in this remote, wild and challenging place. Their traditional homelands straddle
both sides of the more recent Indonesian-Malaysian border that slices through central Borneo. This area had played host to many a skirmish, none more famous than the defeat of the Japanese during the Second World War when the Krayan worked with the eccentric and unconventional British officer Tom Harrison and his Z squadron to wage a guerrilla war in the dense local jungles. It’s a swashbuckling tale involving plenty of skulduggery and daring do, one the Krayan hold in high esteem; then there’s the ingenious construction of a runway built from bamboo (definitely worth a google). Today, the provincial capital of Long Buwan retains a frontier town feel, with a smattering of small shops, corrugated iron churches nestled amongst modest wooden homes, a large football field used to graze horses and host nightly kickabouts and, unsurprisingly, a variety of motorbike repair outfits. The Krayan were friendly and intrigued by our presence; people stopped us
everywhere we went, although my pitiful knowledge of Indonesian meant most conversations consisted of animated portrayals of welcome and gratitude, before fading into smiles, handshakes and waves. We stayed with Alec, a local man, and his family, and ate rice paddy snails, fish, and green spinach-like ferns washed down with boiled smoky water. An entrepreneurial kind of chap, Alec is trying to develop tourism, a new industry for Krayan. He’s building a small hotel and attempting to promote his people and their lands to the world, a challenge with limited telephone coverage and one internet connection for the whole region. Alec made arrangements for us to visit his uncle in a nearby village as our transport was due by lunchtime the next day – that, as you already know, was to be an adventure in itself. Pale, aching and sweaty, we pulled into Pa’ Padi. Like some long-lost dream of the Asian idyll, a small village of
no more than forty wooden homes on stilts hunched on a hillside in a narrow valley, with a network of paddy fields covering the valley floor, beyond, forest-covered hills continued in every direction. Communal stands of bamboo fringed the fields, along with sago palm, while buffaloes roamed the water-filled squares of empty paddies, divided from one another by narrow clay walkways and bamboo fences. In the distance, workers moving through the landscape were reflected in the water in the paddies, pigs grunted in sties, and hunting dogs lounged in small packs while cats flicked flies with their tails. This was out there. There were no roads except the thin jungle we had endured; the village had stood for hundreds of years with everything either hewn from the surrounding landscape or brought in on a dirt bike. This wasn’t a time warp, though. The villagers have smartphones, just no signal. There are TVs, just not flat screens. Timber is
prepared by chainsaw and food is kept in Tupperware. But these modern technologies serve only to complement a way of life that has changed little. The Krayan were keen for me to take part in many of their day-to-day activities, most of which involved squelching around in brown water with clay up to my thighs, trying to keep up and not drop anything.
tributary stream where Jonas proudly introduced us to his ancestral home. Suddenly it felt different. The forest we’d been walking through to this point would rival most tropical national parks, but this, this was a different realm.
We met up with Jonas, Alec’s uncle, who was willing to take us on a small sojourn into the jungle. We enlisted a porter to help share the load and prevent our inevitable demise should we get lost, who upon first meeting, and for the rest of the journey, remained catatonically quiet.
It felt intimidatingly old, like a wise pair of eyes looking through you, dark and fusty. Monolithic trees reached skyward fifty metres or more, holding up the canopy like a leaky, creaky Cathedral roof. Thick, thick, vines and lianas tangled from tree to tree like wooded cobwebs, an understory of dark green that took up every available space. It smelt of death and life at the same time.
We set off early the next day, walking along one of the many irrigating rivers, making several crossings and working our way further downstream deeper into what Jonas termed ‘forest’. At a fork in the river, we stopped to pick off leeches before crossing to a small
One must quickly absorb the brief moments of majesty in a place like this, because before long it will come after you; blood sucking leeches, screaming mosquitoes, marauding flies, swarming bees, flaying hooks, stabbing spines and grappling green tentacles with slicing
epidermises. Everything will attempt to make use of you, to glean some genetic advantage over their brethren. We trekked until mid-afternoon, at which point Jonas and Uno the mute porter set about making camp. There is no greater way to deflate the delicate male ego than to watch the speed, dexterity and brute strength of two Dyaks making a jungle camp. In less than an hour of flailing perangs (a type of machete), food, shelter, water, bed, cutlery, mattress hammocks and dry firewood had all materialised from the forest, during which time I’d managed to assemble a small stack of lightly smouldering twigs. We spent three days in the bush, waking daily to the morning gossip of gibbons, spotting hornbills and countless other creatures of wild design and incredible variety, including an alarmingly well-camouflaged snake, dead from natural causes, as was almost the case for me when I saw it. Jonas took us to a tree, known to his animist grandfathers as sacred, the magnificence of which isn’t expressible by the vehicle of prose, nor the vehicle of normal comprehension for that matter. I have no idea how old it was,
or big, or beautiful, or how many species it supported. We emerged from the jungle lumpier and scabbier than before, yet revitalised, and joyful that places like this still do exist, where nature can be left in her quiet splendour side by side with people who call her home, and that in our brave new world there are still places you can lose yourself. The temptation is to frame Pa’ Padi as some idealised parable of paradise, a throwback, an untouched bubble where the ravages of the modern world haven’t encroached. It isn’t. There are squabbles and hierarchies, aspirations, inequalities, instances of cruelty, gossip and all the fundamentals of the human condition. In fact, it was, by accident or design, a very modern village, a place with enough autonomy for its residents to make their decisions, the ramifications of which they must live with; unlike our own, where degrees of separation insulate the decision-makers from the consequences of their actions. Out there, close to the wilderness and far from help, pragmatism is king. Resources are managed because if they’re not, all will know hunger. The forest is respected, because if it
isn’t, all will suffer. People work each other’s land because it benefits them individually and as a whole. People take what they need, and little more. Make no mistake, life there is tough and precarious, but so it is in many places. Unlike many parts of the world, where the ability to self-subsist and govern has long been sold to the highest bidder, the residents of Pa’ Padi still, for now, control their futures. From Pa’padi at least, it appears it is us who are living the past. We boarded the weekly overloaded Indonesian plane and as we flew back down to the swamps of coastal Tarakan I could see the ‘modern’ world wasn’t far away. Now living in New Zealand, curiosity got the better of Dan Kerins long ago, setting a course to specialise in ill-planned and underfunded excursions into the lesser known for the best part of two decades, always with camera in hand. To this day travel remains a deep passion and photography a complementary obsession. www.dankerinsphotography.com F www.facebook.com/dankerinsphotog/ www.instagram.com/dankerinsphotog/ t www.twitter.com/dankerinsphotog
COSMIC SNOWDONIA WORDS AND IMAGES: Sam Gore LOCATION: Wales
I’ve always loved photographing the night sky whenever I get the chance. Using the camera as a tool to capture the billions of stars out there, it is hard not to feel small on our little blue planet as you look up at the infinite space surrounding us. I ALSO LOVE camping, but on the afternoon of the 28th December, it wasn’t on my mind. It was a glorious day in Snowdonia, not a cloud in the sky while out in the mountains, but knowing that the weather can change in a heartbeat I expected it to cloud over by nightfall. How wrong I was. My girlfriend is lucky enough to live in Snowdonia National Park, surrounded by mountains and rivers in all directions. After a lovely day adventuring, we headed back home. Snowdonia has recently been made an International Dark Sky Reserve due to its lack of light pollution, so after finishing dinner, I went outside and checked the night sky. What greeted me was incredible with so many stars clearly visible. It was so spectacular that even though it was after 9pm, we decided we had to go camping. We threw the tent, sleeping bags and roll mats in the back of the car, and
to protect ourselves from the cold we put on thermals, hats and two pairs of socks, and started driving. Arriving at Llynnau Cregennen, Cregennen Lake, we quickly set up our tent using the light of our head torches. The lack of cloud cover reduced the temperature further so we unzipped a sleeping bag to use as a base, had a sleeping bag each, and as many layers as we could manage. The layers were essential because my desire to photograph the sky meant we would be standing outside for hours before we headed to bed! It is not just the lack of light pollution that made it a great night; multiple factors aligned to make it the best night I have ever experienced. There was not a cloud in the sky, so every star above the horizon was visible. There was no wind, so the surface of the lake remained still and reflected the stars perfectly. And finally, and most
importantly, there was no moon. I’ve had these conditions before, but with a full moon, or even crescent moon the extra light means that some stars can’t be seen. The absolute darkness not only caused an almost vertigo feeling when looking up, but it also meant that composing my images relied on trial and error. I could light up rocks or trees in the foreground, but the sky and lake were indistinguishable when looking through the viewfinder. Cregennen Lake has an island near its middle that makes for a beautiful skyline reflected in the water, far more impressive than any city, if you ask me. By opening my camera shutter for 25 seconds, I could paint the island and its trees with my head torch illuminating them. Even though it is a dark sky reserve, Snowdonia is not completely light free, and I could see the faint yellow glow on the horizon from the town of Dolgellau, over five miles away.
The Milky Way, although being the wrong time of year to see the most impressive part of it, was still awesome. During winter for the Northern Hemisphere, the Earth obscures the brightest part of the Milky Way, but on this night the band of ‘dust’ that is made up of dense clusters of stars millions of light years away stretched the entire way across the sky. I was in heaven, my only regret being that I didn’t have multiple cameras to shoot in different directions. The beauty of the place meant that it wasn’t hard for me to get beautiful shots, I only had to point and shoot and relax for 30 seconds as shooting stars appeared sporadically. My girlfriend Beth was very patient and would sit or stand still for 30 seconds at a time while I took pictures of her in the foreground, asking her to move ever-so-slightly, and promising more than once that “the next photo will be the last.” I wanted to create some time lapses to show the rotation of the Earth and the stars moving across the sky, so at midnight I set up the camera, taking an image with a 25-second shutter speed every 30 seconds before retreating to
the tent to warm up. Setting the alarm for 1am, I quickly drifted off to sleep, only to be woken in what seemed like a few minutes. Bleary eyed I initially had no desire to leave the comfort of our little nest, but telling myself ‘no pain, no gain’, I pulled on my boots and ventured out into the darkness once more. As soon as I was back under the twinkling blanket of stars, I forgot all about sleep and was once again engrossed in capturing the night sky. The camera had been taking photos for an hour, and by combining over 100 images, I could create a single image showing the movement of the star trails, in both the sky and reflected on the lake’s surface. It’s easy to get caught up in the details while photographing, such as what ISO to use, so I always try and remind myself to enjoy the moment. While the camera was clicking away by itself, I would wander off and find a spot to lie down. Looking up, my entire vision was filled with the cosmos and nothing else. We have lots of annoyances in our daily lives, whether it be the traffic on the way to work or another bill to pay. It’s important sometimes to stop and look, appreciating for a moment how
insignificant we are amongst a vast universe that is continually expanding in every direction. As the morning arrived, we woke slowly, allowing ourselves a sleep-in after being up for much of the night. Unzipping the tent, I took in the surroundings that had previously been invisible in the dark of night. Grey skies with low cloud, and the odd sheep wandering across our view, only confirmed we had already experienced the best part of our short stay. Was last night even real? Or perhaps it was just a dream. Sam Gore is a 22-year old photographer and filmmaker based in Cornwall, UK. He uses his work documenting nature and the world as a tool to inspire more people to get outside and enjoy it, and in turn, protect and respect it too. www.samgorephoto.com www.instagram.com/samgore94
OPPOSITE PAGE: Tamas Cserep is an aesthete, philosopher and designer from Budapest, Hungary. He is inspired by the sublimity of nature and the hidden order of our Universe. www.therawflow.tumblr.com www.instagram.com/the_rawflow
THE LONGEST DAY WORDS: Hollie Woodhouse IMAGES: Justin James and supplied LOCATION: New Zealand
On any other day, a 4am wake-up call has me hating the noise which has rudely awakened me, my body acutely aware that it still has a few more hours left before the light begins to shine on a new day. But not this day. I’ve been waiting six months for this moment, possibly years even when I think about it. Hours upon hours of training, covering too many kilometres to count via foot, bike and kayak. The penultimate of adventure races – The Kathmandu Coast to Coast Longest Day. I GLANCE AROUND and glimpse the faces of competitors revealed by the spotlight, aware that I am surrounded by the best of the best, not just in New Zealand, but the world. My stomach does a flip; the butterflies increase tenfold. After a summer that couldn’t have been worse weather-wise, the gods are smiling down on us and have delivered what could be one of the best mornings ever known to Kumara Beach on New Zealand’s West Coast. The sea is dead calm, perfectly lit by the full moon sitting low in the sky. I touch the water; a ritual well-known to all who compete in this iconic event. The superstorm that rolled through a few weeks earlier has changed the landscape significantly, resulting in a
cliff and river now between the 4WD track and the sea. Deciding that wet feet this early on is not the best idea, I opt for the new river to wet my fingers. I am more than OK with this. Ahead of me, I have a mammoth task; three kilometres of road running, 55 kilometres of road biking, 33 kilometres of mountain running, 15 kilometres of road biking, one kilometre of gravel road running, 67 kilometres of kayaking, and finally to finish, 70 kilometres of road biking; from one side of New Zealand to the other, a total of 243 kilometres in one day. I know I can do it; this race is as much, if not more, mental than it is physical. Just how the day will unfold, though, is the reason for my nerves, the
endless thoughts and the uneasy feeling that sits low in my stomach; a constant reminder of what I have voluntarily signed up for. I hug Grant and Scott who are standing beside me and wish them all the best. “See you at New Brighton,” we all say. Two of my best friends and training buddies, they have pushed me in every aspect in the lead-up to this race, willing me to keep up with their longer legs and lightning pace, always waiting for me when I’ve been out of sight for a tad too long. Their smiles say it all; we are ready. In a flash, I’m breathing hard, sucking in the cold morning air and waiting for the lactic acid burn to reach my
legs, but it doesn’t appear. I push harder, managing to overtake a few, a few overtaking me. Finding a steady rhythm, I glance down at my watch and notice I’m running just over a four-kilometre pace. A smile spreads across my face, and a lump appears in my throat. I quickly snap myself out of it, it’s far too early in the day to get emotional. So far, so good. Floodlights shine on the bikes racked in numbered order as competitors race to find their own, with most swapping their running shoes for road bike shoes as quickly as possible before getting back on the tar seal and starting the first bike leg of the day. I crank the big gear and start to wind up the legs (the ‘mongrel gear’ as I later hear it being referred to), catching the two girls ahead of me. After regaining my breath, I share some friendly “hello’s” while we work together to catch the group ahead, and it’s not long until we are caught by a group behind. Settling into a rhythm, our pack, minus one whose chain came off, end up riding the whole way together to Transition One (TA1). As night slowly gives
way to the day, we find ourselves surrounded by the low morning mist and some breathtaking scenery. A truly magical morning on the bike, I couldn’t be happier as we cruise along at an average speed of 30 kilometres an hour. Carefully crossing the train lines, I pull ahead knowing I have only a few kilometres left before the end of the bike stage. With at least 20 in my bunch, I don’t want to get caught up amongst everyone getting off their bikes. I rack my bike (just, it’s a little too small to touch the ground!) and wake up the legs as my eyes search for a familiar face in the crowd. With relief, I quickly spot Scottie, one of my support crew superstars, standing half way down the chute waving at me. Like clockwork, the shoes, helmet and bib come off, replaced by sneakers, pack and the bib back over the top. I’m buzzing; a crash, puncture or even just not being part of a bunch were my biggest fears. Mentally, if I can be in a good space right from the start, then chances are I’m in for a good day. Juj ( Juliet) hands me my visor, and I can hear Mum and Dad cheering me
on. I flash them all a smile, adding, “See you at Klondyke,” before running off through the gate and along the paddock towards the first river crossing. Did that just happen? My two main support crew members, Scottie Scott and Juj Scott (yes, sisters) have never helped crew at any event before, let alone the Coast to Coast One Day. I’d printed out a schedule on how I imagined the day would unfold; what food when, the order of the gear to put on and off, and compulsory gear that needed to be scrutineered, etc. I told them to watch how other competitors ahead of me did it, although the speed that the top guys and girls go through, where every second counts, is something else. By comparison, I was having a cup of tea and biscuits! One transition down and they’d nailed it. Not that I ever doubted them, but they did tell me afterwards that they felt so much better after the first transition was over and everything had gone to plan. The rivers are running at a reasonable flow, which to most is OK but to me
means I have to pick my lines carefully. I stumble down the bank to the first crossing, just behind a group of guys making their way slowly to the other side. They are heading straight across, but I can see the tape on the other side is slightly downstream, so rip, shit and bust I hit the flow and charge on through. Within seconds it is tits up. I lose my footing and instantly find myself submerged, neck-deep in the river. Reaching out I manage to grab hold of a rock with both hands and pull myself back up, steadying my footing and making my way out of the main flow. “Refreshing dip?” comes a comment from one of the race officials. I smile and nod, I am now in front of the three guys and ready for my favourite part of the race. The run up Goats Pass goes by in a blur. The track, now noticeably different after the recent superstorm, is well marked and easy to follow. The long flat stretches slowly change into rocks, which then turn into boulders.
A couple of times I feel myself falling flat, instantly recognising the signs as not taking enough fuel on board. Reaching into my pockets, I pull out some wet scroggin (trail mix) and Frooze Balls – ideal energy food to eat on the run and which can easily survive many river dunkings.
around to help, off comes the bib, followed by the pack and out comes the gear. It’s always the way; I just can’t find my gloves. Eventually, they fall out after pulling almost everything out of my pack, so everything is jammed back in, pack on and with help again, down comes the bib.
One of the great things about adventure racing is the people you meet. Nearing the top, a guy catches up to me who I have spent almost six months kayaking with on Tuesday mornings, but have never said more than a “hello” to. We chat away, sharing our thoughts on the day and how we are both feeling at that current stage. It’s not always about racing hard and busting your gut, but being able to enjoy the unexpected moments that come with competing in these types of events.
Taking on food, I walk up the last steep section before hitting the boardwalks. I am nervous how the legs will be feeling, I find climbing a lot easier than running on the flat, but I am feeling great. The weather is perfect – sunny but not too warm, and the legs quickly fall into a rhythm and don’t want to stop. In no time, I reach the beech forest followed by Dudley’s Knob, the last real climb of the race and a great indicator that I have only an hour left of the run.
Reaching the hut, we come across the compulsory gear check. This year we have to show our thermal top and bottoms, woollen gloves and waterproof jacket. There are plenty of marshals
The last three kilometres of the mountain run are well-known as torture. You can see the finish line, but you’ve got an endless amount of river bed to cross, rocky underfoot with no
real path to take. I have been through a few times in training and can’t find a path down the grass bank, so I make the decision to pick a straight line from the railway bridge and go for it. Running over rocks is an art, and if you are confident it can be a huge advantage, not only for speed but also for the energy you save. Thankfully, over time this is something I have improved a lot, so that final stretch isn’t as painful as it has been in the past. I can see and hear my support crew waiting patiently for me on the edge of the bank. I am wearing a tracker for the day, something I would highly recommend to anyone competing. Not for your own sake, but for the sanity of your support crew. The hardest part of helping crew these events is the unknown. Where are they? What time are they going to come in? Are they OK? At least with a tracker, they know exactly where I am (minus the section where the tracking system went down!), which also helps with the nerves and stress levels.
It is another boomer transition; these girls are on fire. Some Gurney Goo (that stuff is liquid gold) under the arms for chaffing, a salami wrap to get some real food into me, a quick drink of electrolytes and I am off to bike the section that connects the two biggest stages of the day, the mountain run and the kayak. Juj has been nominated to meet me at the top of the hill with some sneakers and food, running down with me to my kayak. She is brilliant, handing me water and a banana as I make my way down the one kilometre of gravel road to the Mt White Bridge below. The spray deck is pulled on, followed by my lifejacket and helmet, then it is into the boat which is being held in the water by Dad. I’m sure my transitions are slow in comparison to others, but to me they are ideal. Calm enough that nothing is an issue, fast enough that no time is wasted. After checking the drinking system is working, and the paddle is handed to me, they push me off into the main flow to begin what
up until this moment I would have described as my weakest leg. Kayaking and I haven’t seen eye-toeye. I think it’s due to my dip while competing in the Two-Day event three years ago, but ever since then, I have feared the water. Scared of the boils, scared of the wave trains, scared of the rock faces, and petrified of tipping out again. Because of this, I made the decision to stick with my JKK Eclipse 5.2 – a beginner’s boat who I had affectionately named ‘The Battleship’. While I had spent many hours training on the Avon, the nor’westers meant I had only managed to get down the river once in the lead up to the race, and while I didn’t fall out, there was more than one occasion where I was floating uncontrollably backwards. “Don’t be a wuss, Hollie,” is my mantra as I settle into a steady rhythm. No chicken runs are allowed today, avoid the boils and take the faster line. “You’re in the safest boat there is, just go for it.” And that I do, and in doing so, have the best trip to date down the
Waimak, which is sitting at an ideal 80 cumecs. Maybe the boat won’t go on Trade Me on Sunday! Apart from the numb ass, I love it. And once again it shows that if I'm strong in the head, it has such an enormous impact on how I race. I am expecting to get overtaken by many, and as a female competitor flies past me before I hit the gorge like I am standing still, I tell myself that no matter the outcome, I am so happy with how I have raced. As one hour turns into two, then three and four, I keep looking back expecting to see boats gaining on me, but to my surprise there are none. Just me and the battleship for a little over five hours. I know I have to get to the Gorge Bridge and the end of the kayak leg before 6pm to avoid wearing a high-vis vest on the bike back to New Brighton. But as I cruise past Woodstock at 5.45pm, with another hour of flat paddling ahead of me, I know my chance of making it in time is gone. Pulling up to the beach at the end, the relief I feel is huge, the smile on my
face says it all – no spills, no boils, no paddling backwards. Just one stage left to go. Dad is there to pull me out, and Scottie and Juj ready to help where they can. It takes a few seconds to get the blood pumping again and the legs back in working order, but after a few ginger steps up the beach I am able to kick it up a gear and run up the hill. “I can do this. One more leg, that’s all,” I say, more to myself than my support crew, as I change my top and pour half a can of Red Bull down my throat. Up until now, I have managed to hold off on too much sugar and gels, but with the final stretch ahead of me I know I will need a bit of extra help as I head into the easterly headwind. Pushing my bike up the goat track to the road above, the girls pop out yelling and cheering. “See you at the finish line,” I yell back, crossing the bridge, winding up the gears and settling in for the final stretch to the finish line. “27 kilometres of straight road ahead,” I read as I whizz past a sign zip tied
to a power pole. Great, I think, that’s the most demoralising thing I have seen all day! With more shelter belts than not, I am crouched down as low as possible to reduce the draft and hide from the wind. A sign half-way down from a school friend lifts the spirits enormously, so grateful to have support along the way. Cars are leap-frogging me, and as they appear quicker and quicker each time, I know I am being caught. ‘Dig it in, dig it in,” I keep telling myself, but unfortunately, I am overtaken by two girls on the final stretch, one with 20 kilometres to go and one with six. I thought I would be gutted, but they fly by me, and I have nothing but respect for them. They both deserve to overtake me, and I vow there and then that if I was ever to do this again, I need to be stronger on the bike. Proof of this comes from both the male and female winners, Sam Clarke and Elina Ussher, who overtake the second-place getters on the final bike leg to take the wins. It isn’t over till it’s over.
Finally reaching the Southern Motorway it is beginning to get dark, and by the time I make my final turn onto Beach Road, it is night time. I had thought about this moment for so long, riding the last stretch down New Brighton Beach, and had imagined I would be emotional. But I am not at all. The pressure and expectations seem to lift off me, and the satisfaction that I know I am about to finish is enormous. I had a goal to do it under 16 hours, and I am on track to do it more than half an hour faster than I expected.
While the Kathmandu Coast to Coast Longest Day is an individual event, it’s anything but. Mum, Dad, Scottie and Juj live my dream with me throughout the whole day, while people from all over are watching me clock through each checkpoint on the App, cheering me on. To not only complete it but achieve a result that I am so incredibly proud of is fantastic. I cross the line in a time of 15:24:15, ninth in the Open Women and 11th overall. Just outside the top ten, I’m still undecided if I have unfinished business or not.
the entire race so I feel I did the best I could while in the moment. And the run, again I loved it. It’s still my favourite part of the entire day – the scenery, the challenge and on this day, the weather. I'm so incredibly lucky to be given the opportunity to experience this breathtaking landscape right on my doorstep.
Pulling into the finish area, I dismount my bike awkwardly and take off. Never throughout the day do I feel that I can’t keep going, and now is no different. Running up the finishing chute and hearing my name and number over the loudspeaker is a moment I’ll never forget. People are clapping and cheering, and I can hear Mum and Dad yelling as I take the final five metres of the 243-kilometre day up the stairs to the finish. My smile says it all. Six months of intense training, of constantly talking and thinking about this race and I have bloody done it. I couldn’t be prouder of my achievement.
I can’t express how thankful I am to have such a supportive network of family, friends and sponsors. I put my heart and soul into the race and feel like I achieved an excellent result for everyone who has been part of this journey with me. With a few days now passed, I look back and wonder what I could have done differently, where I could have made up a few extra minutes, but nothing stands out. Yes, a faster kayak would have helped, but my goal was to get down dry and enjoy it, and I smashed that. Yes, I could have gone faster on the bike, but I was pushing as hard as I could throughout
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Hollie Woodhouse is the publisher of this magazine you're holding in your hands. She has no more major events planned to date, although chances are this will change over the next few months.
OPPOSITE PAGE: Glory – Holly Nekonam is a Scottish graphic designer and illustrator, who has a passion for nature, science and art, and appreciates the intricate beauty which can be found in the world around us. She enjoys fusing both illustrative and graphic elements in her work to create delicate and unique pieces. www.hollynekonam.com www.etsy.com/uk/shop/HollyNekonamDesign www.instagram.com/hollynekonam
CHASING THE SUNRISE WORDS AND IMAGES: Jared Buckley LOCATION: United States of America
I’m not a morning person. I’m one of those late owl kinda guys, happily staying up long into the night. Normally when I hear my alarm going off at 4:30am, I’m not overly enthusiastic. This morning, however, is an exception. I am instantly awake and raring to go. Switching on the main RV light, I quickly pack up my bench seat bed and begin fumbling around trying to find socks and boots. My best mate and travelling companion Dan is busy grabbing cold water bottles from our small fridge and stuffing two towering stacks of slightly squished peanut butter sandwiches into our packs. We exit out into the cool dark air, using our phones to light the way down the track and up to the bus stop opposite the campground. We wait quietly, but I can already feel my excitement beginning to rise. It’s not every morning that you get to watch the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. 4:45AM COMES AND goes but no sign of a bus. I begin to dig into my back pocket to retrieve the bus timetable, silently praying I haven’t made a mistake. Suddenly two bright headlights appear from around the corner, and we thankfully join an almost full busload of fellow travellers and hikers. The bus takes us five minutes down the road to the main bus depot in the heart of the Grand Canyon Village, right next to the sprawling visitors centre. Here we wait patiently to board another bus that will take us out to the start of the South Kaibab trail. Our destination
for this morning’s sunrise spectacular is Ooh-Aah Point, a title given due to the general reaction the view gets from jaw-dropped visitors. It’s only a 15-minute trip, but the bus feels as though it is going backwards as the horizon alarmingly becomes brighter and brighter by the minute. “Will we make it in time?” is the one fearful thought that I continually try to repress. Finally, at 5:45am we arrive at the start of the trail and quickly disembark at the start of the track with only five minutes to make it down to the point. We start out at a brisk walk which becomes faster and faster until
we are into a full run down the trail, the fear of missing those first flickering rays our motivation. The canyon before dawn takes on a whole new look, with the usually steep red walls becoming a soft blue, growing lighter and lighter as the sun draws closer to rising. Racing and sliding around the winding canyon path we spot below a group sitting on a few large rocks jutting out from the corner of the track. A sign confirms we have arrived at our destination. Chests heaving and lungs burning we jump up onto one of the rocks to find a perfect
A sunrise anywhere on the right day is ‘magic but watching it illuminate a whole canyon in front of you is something else.’ viewing spot. It’s obvious the sun is just moments away from breaking the horizon. Ripping open my bag I grab my camera and tripod and try to find a level spot as quickly as possible without losing the whole thing down the 120-metre drop in front of us. There’s little wonder people find it hard to describe the Grand Canyon. It’s the vastness of the view that grabs you – a grand, majestic tapestry of lines running across the horizon; ridges and valleys, layer upon layer trailing downwards to the Colorado river below. The hue of the canyon walls is no longer a cool blue but now a dark red as the first sun rays peek over the far eastern ridge. A sunrise anywhere on the right day is magic, but watching it illuminate a whole canyon in front of you is something else. We try to savour each moment as our view is slowly filled with the warm morning sunlight. Long shadows are drawn out from the many ridges and bluffs. Although there are 15-25 people there for the sunrise, it’s mainly silent apart from the odd camera shutter. Before we know it, the sun is above the far canyon ridge and moving steadily westward. Jerseys and jackets are quickly discarded as the sun already packs some heat. We continue our journey downwards along the dusty red track towards our next stop, Skeleton Point. About an hour into our trek we decide it’s time for a drink and sandwich. Finishing my last mouthful, I see Dan head over to the edge of the canyon
and lookout. Turning, he yells at me to get my camera out for a photo. I’m not sure if it was the heat or something in the sandwiches but before I could get the lens cap off Dan was on the edge of the canyon, shirt off with the rest of his clothing following suit! The sight of him stark naked, hands raised in the air in triumph over the canyon made me laugh so hard I almost couldn’t even take the picture – a timeless classic to show his kids someday. Fortunately, noone was walking up or down the trail at the same time! Fully clothed we continue down past Skeleton Point, on to Trail Junction and finally down onto the black suspension bridge across the Colorado River. It’s now nearing midday, around four hours since we left Ohh Aah Point, and the heat is making for hard walking. Sweaty, hot and tired we gratefully drop our packs onto the sandy banks of the river and swiftly begin removing our boots and unpack our towels. Sprinting into the water, I am expecting a cool refreshing dip but am instead met with instant loss of breath and brain freeze! Never have I experienced a river so cold. I later discover that the river is mainly fed by the melting snow from the Rocky Mountains and agree that ‘melted snow’ fits the description perfectly. Numb but refreshed, we finish the rest of our lunch lying the sun at the bottom of the canyon and enjoy the incredible views around us, trying to ignore what is to come. The hard part. Up.
My memories of the return leg back up consist mainly of looking down at my feet and making sure that I continue to put one foot in front of the other. Legs and skin burning, we slowly but steadily make it back up the 11 kilometres to the top and onto our bus before falling into our RV exhausted but jubilant. We know we have experienced the very best the Grand Canyon has to offer. Expectations were high coming here, but without a doubt, this place has delivered with flying colours. Lying in the RV dirty, dusty and sweaty I can’t wait until next time. Jared Buckley is an aspiring visual storyteller, using both still and moving images to tell his adventures. Born and raised in the South Island, he currently lives and works in Auckland where he is studying Film and Television at the New Zealand Broadcasting School. Passionate about photojournalism and travel photography, he’s constantly dreaming of his next overseas adventure! www.instagram.com/jared.buckley
FOLLOWING PAGE: The Great Adventure – Ileana Soon is a designer and illustrator who was born in Borneo, Malaysia, educated in Australia, and now is currently based in Los Angeles. She is on a quest to create work that has emotional resonance through the mediums of design and film. www.ileanasoon.com www.ileanadraws.tumblr.com www.instagram.com/ileanadraws
SHAKE AND BAKE WORDS: Genevieve King IMAGES: Roy Schott LOCATION: New Zealand
A five-day rafting trip down the Clarence isn’t a new experience for me. As a raft guide and Clarence local (I grew up on a high-country farm in the area) I spend numerous weeks on the river each summer. However, it’s a place I never get sick of, and every new group provides a new week of adventure.
AGAINST THE ODDS, this particular trip had started off exceptionally well. In the cold southerly rain, we loaded up the rafts and made some quick introductions before setting off into the mist. The clients (a group of Nelson ladies who often get together for tramping trips) were in high spirits and not put off in the slightest by the dreary weather. The river was rising fast, transforming from a lazy clear stream to a raging torrent of swirling chocolate milk. Shrieks of excitement echoed through the gorge as we splashed our way through the infamous ‘Chute’ rapids, the cold temperatures and soaking wet clothes long forgotten. We made it to the first available cluster of willows and set up camp, rain persisting. Tarps were strung up in the trees, and a warming seafood bouillabaisse whipped up on the fire. Day Two dawned relatively clear, and with the river now high and dirty there was no urgency to paddle hard. The wide, braided shallow section
of the river was now a brown ocean, rocking us gently downstream. There’s something very impressive about the Clarence in flood. As guides, we become so accustomed to pushing the boats over shingle banks and paddling to make enough ground in a day, so for us, a high and dirty river is a welcome sight. We pulled in at Quail Flat early and set up camp in a cosy little spot we like to call Secret Squirrel. Tucked in between some bluffs and the river, with tall and slender poplar trees providing a soft, leafy floor, it has always been a favourite place to camp on the second night of the trip. Guitars were pulled out and a cruisy afternoon was spent hanging out by the river and strolling through the lush green paddocks nearby to visit the horses. With time to spare, I set about making a cake. For the past year, I had been working on a side project – a book of photos, recipes and stories from the river. Most meal times had required
the additional pressure of styling and photographing the food, and with the book finally sent off to the printers just two days before the trip, I was enjoying my favourite camp activity of getting creative in my river-side ‘kitchen’. This wasn’t just any old cake; I was in full show-off mode – salted caramel sauce and sesame brittle to accompany a slow cooked spiced apple cake. It’s surprisingly easy to get good results from a camp oven by sitting it on hot coals and loading more on top, but there are many variables, and it’s always unknown whether you’ve been successful or not until you lift the lid. This time, it came out perfectly. I proudly displayed the cake on the table with a couple of jars of flowering hawthorne to set the scene. We enjoyed a beautiful meal followed by the cake. Some talented musician/ raft guides enhanced the evening with a fireside guitar session, and the conversations between campers flowed smoothly. One lady wondered if we’d
ever had to evacuate a trip for any reason? Never, we said. One by one, the campers drifted off to find their tents in the trees. I stayed, watching the glowing embers and thinking about how peaceful it is out on the river, and how lucky I am to call this magical place home.
to silty liquefaction. The banks on the other side of the river were collapsing into the angry water, and the roar of numerous landslides echoed through the valley. The poplar trees surrounding us swayed and clashed together, those closest to the bank suddenly appearing to have taken on a new drunken lean.
I put out the fire and went to join the other guides sleeping peacefully under the stars, tucked in beside the bluff with the riverbed below. With a tummy full of cake and the fresh air on my face, I was soon fast asleep despite the full ‘super-moon’ illuminating everything around us.
Terrified, I clung to my three friends and tried to come to terms with what was going on. An earthquake. The trembling earth hadn’t yet eased – this was to become perhaps the longest two minutes of our lives. What a shake! Hundreds of questions raced through my mind. Where is the epicentre of this thing and is my family OK? Is the river going to dam and flood? Will there be a devastating tsunami out on the coast? Is this the big one? Will these poplar trees kill us? Are we better or worse off than the rest of the country? And where to from here?!?
Suddenly I was running and scrambling over my friends, fleeing for my life and fighting to stay on my feet. Before I could work out if it were a dream, reality, World War 3 breaking out or the earth coming up to swallow us, we were ten metres away from the crumbling bluff, holding each other just to stay standing as we watched the riverbed below foam up and turn
Amidst violent aftershocks, we gathered up the crew and discussed a plan. One woman’s tent was perched
over a crack in the ground, with a tree branch thrust through the side. Fist-sized rocks peppered our sleeping bags that we’d been peacefully lying in just minutes before. Every new jolt brought new rocks down and produced loud cracking sounds from the trees. One thing was for sure, we weren’t sending anyone back to their tents, and there was no way we’d be sleeping by the river. Everyone gathered up their sleeping bags and mats and we made our way carefully around the broken bluffs and through the recently cracked riverbed to the relative safety of the paddock, joining the now rather distressed horses. A tarp was laid down and impromptu camp set up. With the clients settled and attempting to get some sleep, we dug out the sat phone and tried to contact the outside world. Someone got through to family in Nelson and Roy could contact his parents in Methven, but there was no ring tone on the East Coast. This was bad. There wasn’t much to do but lie
down, and with the initial adrenaline spike over, I slept surprisingly well between aftershocks. We were woken at 6am to a chopper landing beside us; a nice surprise to see Guy Redfern from Muzzle Station. It must have been quite a sight, 14 campers asleep in the middle of the paddock. Guy had snippets of information but none of it very good for us. Thankfully the quake hadn’t hit Christchurch or Wellington too drastically, but there was no word from Kaikoura or anyone around Clarence. Equipped for a week in the wilderness, there was no immediate concern for us. The clients knew their families were safe and there was nothing we could do but carry on. We made our way back to the picturesque campsite which had felt like a death trap just hours earlier. My jars of hawthorn blooms were still standing on the table, quite a weird sight when it felt like the rest of the world had gone sideways. Breakfast was fried up on the fire, and the campsite packed down. I don’t think I’ll be staying there again anytime soon. It was a strange feeling pushing off from the newly fractured river bank. An eerie haze lay over the valley, and the strong smell of fresh earth filled the air. The cattle which had been so noisy during the shakes were now licking the newly excavated mineral-rich banks, seemingly unaffected by the events in the night. We had only travelled a few kilometres when Guy came swooping in, landing his helicopter on a narrow island of boulders in the river. “You’d better pull in at our place, the river’s dammed at the entrance to the gorge,” he said. Wow. This quake was worse than expected, and we didn’t even know what was going on outside our little bubble yet!
The next 24 hours were spent waiting at Muzzle Station. Waiting for the dam to burst. Waiting for word from the outside world and waiting to find a new way home. The river was certainly not an option. It was a worrying time for me, knowing that our farm sits on numerous faults and limestone outcrops that surround the homestead. Grim images kept sneaking into my head, despite the efforts of the other guides to keep spirits high. Ironically, at one of the most remote high country stations in the country and with cracked walls and crumbled sheds by the homestead, I managed to get on the internet, watch the news and even use the flushing toilet. Being entirely self-sufficient and isolated sure has its positives! Frustratingly, all we had seen of Clarence in the news was three Hereford cows perched on an island of landslide debris, looking a bit confused but otherwise quite relaxed. I couldn’t tell which neighbour they belonged to but judging by the land damage surrounding them, things were obviously very bad. Through a complicated network of friends and relatives of locals who could fly in with private planes, I was finally able to establish that my parents, along with everyone else in the valley, were alive. My cottage was gone, the woolshed and deer yards destroyed, and we had new hills running through the farm. The seabed had risen, and crayfish lay waiting to die, high and dry in what used to be their underwater landscape. The homestead was miraculously still standing, and my parents quite lucky to be alive. Relief and frustration hit all at once, and with many unanswered questions, it was a long and emotional sleepless night, made more exciting by a vicious nor’wester ripping through the camp. By the following afternoon, a friendly
pilot from Nelson had stopped by and offered us a ride home. Yes, please! It was a very emotional flight, surveying the damage to the river and waiting to see my home and family. Luckily I have a very active imagination and had conjured up in my head scenes far worse than the reality. There were no stranded crayfish on the front lawn, but the front lawn was now ten metres higher than it had been when I left for the raft trip four days earlier. Mum, Dad and my brother were all surprised and relieved to see me dropped off on the driveway. I gave them a quick hug then checked to see that the Jack Russells and my pet pig were safe and sound. Adventure over, now it was cleanup time. When I eventually got to my cottage, literally split in half by the uplifted fault but somehow still standing, the first thing I picked up out of the rubble was a painting of a quote I’d done earlier in the year. “You are a ghost, riding a meat coated skeleton made from stardust, riding a rock through space. Fear nothing.” Quite fitting I thought. Can’t wait to get back on that river! This article was written almost two months on from the catastrophic November 14th 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the top of the South Island of New Zealand. To check out the recipe for Genevieve’s Spiced Apple Cake, head to page 106. Genevieve King grew up on a high-country farm in Clarence, north of Kaikoura. She works as a raft guide on the river, taking people on multi-day wilderness adventures. Cooking on an open fire is her favourite part of the job, and over the past year she’s been working on a book of photos, recipes and stories about the people of Clarence. www.somethingbeginningwithg.com F www.facebook.com/somethingbeginningwithg
MOUNTAIN DUES WORDS: Mitch Collins IMAGES: Mitch Collins and Tamson Armstrong LOCATION: Albania
The U-turn of the van sent out a screech of rubber, waking the neighbourhood dogs of ShkodĂŤr, Albania. Once inside, we wedged ourselves between a few locals on the back seat also making the early trip to Lake Komani. The road cut across the floodplains and up into the foothills, each intersection a meeting place, the arteries of the countryside coming to life. At one point, the van came to a stop to collect more passengers. A scooter approaching from our left came to an abrupt halt. As the driver steadied his scrambler, the metal churn perched on the back tipped over the side, spilling white contents over the gravel. We saw the horror on his face as his morningâ€™s work would not make it to market.
SPILT MILK WAS nothing much to cry about. Spilt blood, however, was. Albania is famous for its mountain code; Kanun – centuries of tradition and conduct governing relations. Death at the hands of a member of another family would expect exacting revenge and retribution in a ‘blood feud’. Over 3,000 Albanian families are estimated to be embroiled in such ongoing feuds over the last 20 years, with thousands of attributed deaths. While this practice appears alarming to travellers at first, it certainly isn’t a risk. What isn’t as well-known is the other practices that their code extends to. The Four Pillars of Kanun are built around Kin Loyalty, Honour, Right Conduct and Hospitality. The latter two, in particular, are most relevant to all visitors to Albania. Now finding ourselves abandoned at the ferry terminal – a collection of worn buildings on the side of a cliff atop a hydro-dam – we had to make friends. After a few had exchanged glances
and polite smiles, we were directed to the car ferry with several other travellers. It wasn’t hard to notice that, as we boarded, the locals waited back. Eventually, another boat came across the lake to pick them up. It was in the form of a converted school bus, complete with a hull and inboard engine. The three-hour journey into the highlands saw steep mountain landscapes, shepherds herding goats, farmers stacking hay and small boats eager to hitch a ride, tying their boats to the ferry. The Accursed Mountains bear their name from being both insurmountable and wild. The ranges do not, however, live up to this name as increasingly travellers have found access. Once we arrived on the rocky shore, we were herded to a waiting car, which was full by the time we got there. After a few minutes, we returned to the ferry operator to ask when the next would arrive. With a puzzled look on his face, he made a short phone call and five minutes later, the same car came
back, still full of passengers and their baggage. I guess we would be squeezing in for the hour drive to Valbonë. The village itself was an established starting point for our journey hiking the Accursed Mountains. The region bordered Montenegro and Kosovo. From the information centre and accommodation, many signed and guided paths took you across passes and up valleys to isolated villages. We were making our way 20 kilometres across the Valbonë Pass to Theth, and it was raining heavily. Hitching a five-kilometre ride to the start of the trail kept us dry a little longer. Once outside, it became torrential. It must have been a sight, seeing a few tourists in their discountpriced, but technically well-equipped wet-weather clothing, soaked to the bone as water found a way through where the bag straps pressed against the body. Coming across a local guide, it was a different story. He was side saddled on a mule, warm and bone dry.
He was using an umbrella as a more effective shield from the elements. We had all the gear, yet no idea. Being late October, we were on the shoulders of the hiking season. But still, services remained open as a welcome refuge to travellers. Small shack cafés along the trail provided refreshment, shelter and most importantly, log fires to dry our clothes. Steam quickly evaporated from fabric and with spirits restored, we looked out for gaps in the weather. For the café proprietors, it must have been a fair hike every morning to open up shop. With only a few of us this late in the season, they didn’t fare too well. Eventually, the light began to filter down in the next valley, and the bright fiery colours of autumn were on display. The spruce of leaves in shades of yellow, orange and red were beginning to litter the karst path. Hospitality, as we remember, is one of the main pillars of the Kanun; one
that we were about to receive. Staying upstairs in a two-storeyed grey house, smoke billowing from the fireplace below choking our room, we opened a window to let both the fresh air and the cold back in. Sitting down for dinner we were entertained by our host who spoke little English at best. Without her son to translate, she entertained us by making small gestures and impressions of the cat. Meowing as she came into the room, she carried a homemade burek pastry and bean soup. This was to be washed down with a shot of home-distilled raki. This evaporated in a plume of fumes that travelled back up your throat, the remainder sinking and piercing your stomach lining; best to sip this one slowly. Waiting for our transport out of the Theth Valley we watched several 4WD vehicles drive past. Rugged Landrovers, it appeared, were dominant, and for good reason too. The climb out was
not only steep but rocky, which caused the utility to lurch wildly around the narrow road. Hitchhikers seemingly in the middle of nowhere would thumb a lift up the mountain, to be dropped off again in another remote location. Mitch Collins and Tamson Armstrong just got hitched. After cycling 6,000 kilometres across Europe followed by a Kiwi summer, they have now departed for their next adventure in Canada.
OPPOSITE PAGE: Howling Wolf – Sarie Stegeman (ArtbySAAR) aspires to capture the spirit of the outdoors, a vibe of freedom and the greatness of the universe with an energising splash of colour! Her passion for creating beautiful things collides with a deep love and respect for nature, sharing this connection through her art. www.etsy.com/shop/artbySAAR F www.facebook.com/Art.BySAAR t www.twitter.com/artbySAAR www.pinterest.nz/artbySAAR
COAST TO COAST RANGERS WORDS: Hollie Woodhouse IMAGES: Justin James LOCATION: New Zealand
With the memory of the 2015 Coast to Coast event still fresh in Jess De Bont’s mind (finishing in a very credible third place), her husband Dan posed a question. “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could get some kids who wouldn’t normally have these opportunities to compete in the Coast to Coast?” Jess, who has previously worked overseas with children in less fortunate situations immediately agreed. “He obviously had quite a bit of time to think about this while waiting for me at transitions,” she laughs. And just like that the Coast to Coast Rangers concept was born. TAKING THEIR IDEA to Jess’s father, Steve Moffat, he didn’t need much convincing before offering his support, suggesting they get some ‘legends’ of the sport on board to help them along the way. Steve Gurney, Emily Miazga and Nathan Fa’avae (all extremely well-known for their own Coast to Coast successes) were eager to be involved, providing expertise and guidance in the build-up to the race as well as acting as teammates on race day. The program takes underprivileged children, or children at risk, and offers them an opportunity to compete in New Zealand’s iconic multisport race, the Kathmandu Coast to Coast. It provides them with the necessary skills required to compete, including teaching them how to bike, bunch ride, run over boulders, up river beds and kayak down rivers. “Some of them have never ridden a bike before,” Jess adds, a concept that for many of us seems hard to comprehend. It gives the kids an opportunity that they might not have had before. Although the major goal is for the students to compete in the Coast to Coast, it is so much more than that. “We’re offering them a different way of life,” Jess says. As an ex-Aranui student, Daniel felt
approaching his old low-decile school, located in Christchurch’s East, to be involved in the first year of the program was an easy decision. From the initial concept in mid-February, through to planning, organising and then the selection of two students in July, meant they had a little over seven months to prepare. After months of sacrifice and training, Taitama Tukaki, 16, and Bryce Adamson, 15, along with support crew superstars Sholita Umutaua and Kayla Scott, were successful in competing in the individual two-day event and were greeted on the finish line at New Brighton Pier by a haka from fellow students. In doing so, they became the youngest ever competitors to complete the Coast to Coast. Following on from the success of 2016, Jess and the team approached a contact they had at Linwood College, another low decile school in Christchurch’s East, to form a group of senior students to compete in 2017. Speaking first to the school and then the students in assembly, they offered information about the race, with keen students registering their interest in being part of the Coast to Coast Rangers team. Starting off with 12 students, a number which worked both financially and
logistically, their first training session involved a run along New Brighton Beach. It gave the students an opportunity to ask questions and get to know Jess and Daniel, and vice versa. Unfortunately, due to personal reasons and work commitments, three students had to pull out along the way, which brought the final number down to nine. The Coast to Coast Rangers team was made up of two teams of three, splitting the race into kayaking, cycling and running, with each student doing one section over the two-day race. Eden Pettigrew stepped up the mark after one team member became ill, which left her to take his place and not only do the run stage alongside Jess, but following it up the next day and getting in the kayak alongside Iain Haycock. Jarod Bradshaw did the two-day event by himself, alongside Wanaka’s multisport legend Bob McLaughlin, finishing second in the School’s Tandem section and Taitama Tukaki came back after competing in last year’s race to compete in the Mountain Run, placing third in the school section. This left the final two, who again due to personal reasons couldn’t race, to help as support crew, a not-so-glamorous but still extremely
important part of the group. “It was nice to have them all involved and share the experiences with the rest of the team, a team right to the finish line,” Jess adds. Saturday training sessions were run by Jess and Matthew Mark, another local multisport legend who also has a passion for creating a positive impact on the youth and community. They would pick the students up from school at 9am, load them into a van the school had provided and show them different ways of training and doing things. Heading to various adventure spots, they were not only ideal for training but also gave the students an opportunity to experience a part of the city they hadn’t seen before. “A lot of them haven’t been up into the Port Hills, some of them haven’t even been to Sumner,” Jess says. Again, this is a foreign concept for many Christchurch locals. But it was more than just teaching them the physical side of competing; it also involved educating
them in many different aspects of their life. Nutrition is a crucial part of fuelling the body and providing enough energy while competing in multisport races. “No more fish and chips every night for dinner,” Jess told them, educating them about different options such as tuna and rice as a healthy alternative to takeaways. Providing a rewarding program like this doesn’t come cheaply, despite all four mentors offering their time voluntarily while juggling work and family commitments. “It’s easy to hide and let someone else do it, but being involved in something like this is all positive,” Jess says. “It has to be a passion; otherwise you’d give up.” Her two girls understand that Mum has gone on a Saturday training run with people who need it. They have been known to come along to the odd training session too, clowning around with the students, and every now and again showing why they shouldn’t be underestimated.
The support and generosity of people and businesses have helped provide the students with the gear required to compete in the race. Kathmandu has kindly donated clothing and shoes, as well as providing one of the race entries. Giant Bikes have given the students road bikes to use during the event and Scotty Browns, a local bike store, generously replaced the mountains bikes which were stolen from the Linwood School sheds early in the year. Understandably Jess and the students were devastated when they discovered they were missing. But the generosity of so many people within the community who donated time and money to ensure they were replaced was an incredibly humbling experience. Iain Haycock and his wife Bek from McMillian Drilling have kindly given financial assistance over both years, with Iain offereing his time and being a buddy in the kayak section with Eden. Pak’n’Save Wainoni have offered their support, along with Richard
from Complete Performance Training providing training tips and race day tactics for the students. “It’s cool seeing all the different people come together and help out,” Jess says. Each year Harcourts Grenadier sets up a golf tournament that supports charities, generally within youth, to help with their fundraising. Last year the Coast to Coast Rangers were lucky enough to be involved, raising muchneeded funds to go directly towards the programme. The money was used for extra gear that was needed for the team, with the remaining funds going towards continued support for the students post the Coast to Coast. Jess sees the opportunity for this to be used in many ways, such as helping a student who couldn’t otherwise afford it with tertiary funding, or putting students through other programs such as Outward Bound. Sometimes it could be as simple as providing food for the table. “When we’ve got money, we’ve got opportunities to help,” she says.
The whole experience has been incredibly positive, giving Jess and Daniel, as well as her parents and children, an opportunity to do something as a family. “It’s all winwin. I’m learning so much myself, and meeting people who I wouldn’t normally associate with. I’m having experiences that I normally wouldn’t be exposed to either.” Watching the students grow as individuals over the year as they are exposed to new experiences and opportunities, and opening their eyes to the world, is incredibly rewarding and makes it more than worth it. They would love to see more schools involved that would benefit from having a program like this offered to their students, ideally as part of the curriculum. This means it becomes a lot more accessible for the students to be involved, as well as freeing up more of their personal time. “I like that we’re different to other charitable trusts out there. We’re giving the students
a goal to work towards, with a huge reward at the end.” Admitting herself that at times it is bloody hard work, she quickly reassures me she wouldn’t change a thing. “I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it.” East to East is a documentary by Vanessa Wells following the 2016 Coast to Coast Rangers. Check out their Facebook page www.facebook.com/EastToEast2016/ for more details. F www.facebook.com/coast2coastrangers
OPPOSITE PAGE: North and South – AlinaAndreea Popovici is a graphic designer based in London. Because she doesn't like to speak about herself she often tells this story instead of a realistic one: "FLATOWL started as a normal owl who likes to travel. Then she crushed into a London building and became flat. This was the moment when she started to design and code... for therapy." Most of the times this story works. www.flatowl.uk F www.facebook.com/flatowl www.instagram.com/flatowl t www.twitter.com/FLATOWL
A RIDE THROUGH THE WOODS WORDS: Steven Geddes IMAGES: Steven Geddes and supplied LOCATION: Alaska
It’s hard to remember sometimes what motivates an idea. Is it fear, lust, stupidity, a yearning for adventure, or some weird mix of them all? But I guess that’s not the part of the story you need to remember. After all, it’s just a split-second decision. What follows, however, is an infinite sequence of once unfathomable events that have now burnt that original, innocent idea from obtainable memory. SOME YEARS BACK, when there was less grey hair on my head and more time on the horizon, I was on my way to Canada to study at the University of British Columbia. With a month or so before the semester started, I headed north to Alaska to visit a part of the world that had caught my imagination years before. Now as anyone who has visited the northern capital of Anchorage would attest, this rough and rugged city has barely a hill to its name. Therefore, my morning stroll into town to purchase a bus ticket south to the town of Homer, was quite pleasant. The warm sun was out, the air was cool, the birds were singing, and I was filled with a youthful enthusiasm that materialised into a spring in my step and a whistle on my lips.
The next part of the story has been erased from my memory, the haze lifting around the time I remember heading back to the hostel with no bus ticket in my hand and no bus money in my pocket. However, I was cruising through the streets on top of what is best described as an over-loved, under cared for, cheaply rebuilt mountain bike. After a few simple additions – saddlebags, a bag rack, a bell, and a can of bear pepper spray, I loaded up a semester’s worth of supplies on to my new trusty steed. In no time, I was on the road south. The snowcapped mountains were too far in the distance to worry about, the heat from the midday sun warmed my skin just enough to counterbalance the soft, cool northern breeze perfectly. At the time, I
had no doubt that it was a brilliant idea. The next day I woke to torrential rain; the type the area is apparently known for at that time of year. The wind had picked up and brought with it all the chill from the Arctic circle. However, the heat from yesterday’s midday sun still resided in my stinging and stiff thighs, which were now glowing a frightening shade of red. The bike hadn’t fared any better. The back wheel had buckled out of shape due to the weight of my gear and my relentless need to try and jump everything like I did when I was a 13-year-old BMX bandit. After offloading my nonessential gear (University books, formal shoes, outfits, laptop and speakers, etc.) to a seemingly honest couple on their way back to Anchorage, I headed to the local bike repair shop.
The young local guy running the place was a friendly, unfortunately talkative, type of bloke. While mending my twisted back wheel he told me the unsettling story of a young couple who was recently mauled to death by a grizzly. They were cycling not too far from the city. The problem, he explained, is that push bikes were just too quick and quiet. You ride around a corner without making a sound and bam! you’ve startled an unsuspecting grizzly. This of course instantly would send the massive beast into a crazed, attacking frenzy that was sure to be fatal for the cyclist. Luckily he had a solution that would help me on my journey. After searching around in an old cardboard box for a minute or two, he pulled out two small bells. Bear safety bells to be precise. The idea was simple – attach these to your feet and every time you moved the bell would ring, and the bears would hear you coming and of course politely get out of your way. Foolproof. Just to make sure I would be safe he insisted I
make as much noise as possible while riding. “Sing, yell, count out loud, just don’t make the same mistake as the others,” he demanded. I was better equipped, slightly more frightened and back on the road in no time. ‘Dling dling dling’, the charming little bells rang out as I rode off once again on my quest south. It’s not easy to remember the words to any songs when you’re constantly on the lookout for crazed bears. The best I could muster was a disjointed, rendition of Barnesy’s ‘Khe Sanh’; well at least the three or four lines I could remember. “Well the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone. And only seven flyin’ hours, hhmmm hhmmmm hhhmmm, till I’ll be landin’ in Hong Kong. Well the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone,” I repetitively sang in a slightly distressed tone at the top of my lungs. Over the next few days, the rains didn’t stop, the winds continued to blow, and the snow-covered mountains that once decorated the distance now dominated my view. Mile after mile I pushed on.
Every time a tourist bus almost wiped me off the highway, I tried desperately hard to remember that original motivating idea, but to no avail. Now a few days on and with plenty of miles passed, this six-foot-three pasty white with bright red thighs Queenslander pulled his still overloaded mountain bike into a roadside diner in a little backcountry, one-horse-town truck stop. As I entered the diner, it was like a scene from an old cowboy western. The bunch of rough-looking hombres inside immediately stopped what they were doing and stared. The only noise to be heard was the sound of my spurs (bear safety bells) as I made my way over to the bar. Dling dling dling. With a steely look, a nod at the bartender, and the words “Whiskey, one triple cheese burger, a large coke and can I please change my fries to sweet potato?” the sinister crowd accepted the mysterious stranger and got back to their business.
the eerie glow of the distant, ‘Under midnight sun I tentatively began to cycle down the dirt road.’ As I shovelled the last few chips into my already overfull mouth, the hobolooking stranger from the other end of the bar came and sat next to me. We got talking, and after a while, he had a perfect, fully legitimate shortcut for me to take. A few miles out of town I would get to a ranger’s hut and information sign. Straight across from this on the other side of the highway there was a single lane dirt road. Apparently, if I took this route, it would take me to some of the nicest landscapes the state had to offer. There’d be no one else around, plenty of great views, moose, deer, bears, eagles, everything I’d want to see. There were even a few places to camp along the way. And the best part, a few days further down this road I’d pop straight back on the main highway south, saving myself time and guaranteeing me a truly authentic Alaskan experience. Dling dling dling. Without hesitation I rode off with a full belly and the renewed sense of adventure that my trustworthy friend had instilled in me. ‘Well the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone. And only seven flyin’ hours, hhmmm hhmmmm hhhmmm, till I’ll be landin’ in Hong Kong. Well the last plane out of Sydney’s almost goooone’. I was back and better than ever. Several hours of tough riding later, just before midnight, I arrived at the sign post and hut. For a while, I took shelter on the front step of the empty cabin. The rain shower that I awoke to on my second morning of the trip still hadn’t passed. I sat gazing at the dirt road on
the other side of the highway. Thoughts were racing in my head. Sure, the friendly stranger had got the distance wrong to the sign. A simple mistake. What could go wrong, riding down this long, abandoned road, in the middle of nowhere? With an important decision to make I left it to fate and flipped a coin. Heads I stick to the highway, tails I take the dirt road. Under the eerie glow of the distant, midnight sun I tentatively began to cycle down the dirt road. A fog slowly drifted across the road on either side of me. The rain continued to fall relentlessly, and my ever-vigilant bear safety bells continually announced my presence. Dling, dling, dling. The enthusiasm in my voice had dwindled. My rendition of Barnesy was now nothing more than a quiet mumble, “The last plane out on Sydney’s probably gone.” My eyes darted back and forth to the thick bush on either side of the road. Fatigue and loneliness aren’t good for a man’s imagination. The horrible fates in my head that awaited me around each bend, kept me on edge. Dling, dling, dling, as I slowly pushed forward into the unknown. Like a bad apparition, a bush on the side of the road 50 metres ahead began to move and murmur more than my mind could fantasise. My heart started skipping beats, and with my stomach twisting I awaited the beast that was obviously on its nightly hunt. A 1,000-pound bear, a giant male moose, that creature from the X-Files episode my older brother made me watch years ago? Whatever this thing was, I wasn’t looking forward to crossing its path.
A jolt of adrenaline followed by some primal survival calculation flooded my brain when on to the road ahead stumbled three bearded, heavily armed men, dressed in full camouflage hunting gear. I could tell they were heavily intoxicated by the way they staggered around and carried on with each other. Each of them had at least three guns strapped to his body with who knows how many more tucked away. Their eyes, when they could focus, were locked on me. Dling... dling... dling... My momentum slowed as the gap between us grew smaller and smaller. “Thee lasssttt plaanneahhh ouuut of SSyyydneeeee,” I was now whispering to myself. They walked with intent towards me and the thought of casually cycling by had completely vanished from my mind. Now murder and sodomy weren’t on my list of things to experience on this trip. So, in the 30-or-so seconds while they were making their way over, my mind was racing through all the defence mechanisms I had on hand. 1. Grab the bear pepper spray and quickly blast them in the eyes. 2. Take the pocket knife out from my backpack and try to remember how Seagal would take out three heavily armed men. 3. Hit the foetal position quickly, crying uncontrollably while soiling myself – all completely normal options while in a high-pressure situation. I would just have to wait and see what the moment called for. “G’day fellas,” I yelled in the thickest,
toughest Australian accent I could muster – a sure fire way to break the ice when dealing with the Yanks. As they grew close the smell of body odour, old fish and rum filled the air in a thick haze of feral manliness. Clearly powered by a lot more than a love of the outdoors and a few rums, they asked me what I was doing in these parts. This was probably the most cliché and intimidating line possible. In a firm but friendly tone, I explained that I was just a poor traveller, peacefully making his way across their truly stunning part of the world. They seemed uneasy but thankfully satisfied enough with my response not to harm me then and there. They were camping, funnily enough, at the camp site I was making my way to. Ha yeah… the three poker-faced men invited me back to their camp. They’d been fishing, drinking, and shooting all day. Their plastic bag full of rum cans was running frighteningly low, so they were heading back to kick up their heels for the night.
In a tone that made it clear that I had no other options, they insisted that I was coming with them. I was exhausted, cold and still scared stiff waiting for the inevitable horror show that was clearly ahead for me. Now, of course, I respectively declined about seven or eight times before it started to get weird. Not wanting to offend them any further I told them it would be great if I could stay at their camp, in the middle of nowhere, at night, when the only person on the planet who knows where I am is the toothless gentlemen at the random truck stop diner. So back we went. Back at camp they piled wood and petrol on to the fire, grabbed another few bottles of rum out of their seemingly endless stash and started cooking up some freshly caught salmon. All the while I’m sitting under their old blue tarp, pocketknife stashed in my shorts pocket, trying to keep my eyes open and seem genuinely interested in whatever they grunted to each other.
Every time I moved slightly, ‘dling’, my ever-reliant safety bells would give out a faint cry reminding me that I had successfully warned off any bears in a ten-metre radius while unfortunately showcasing my incredible manliness to my newfound friends. After about an hour or so back at their camp I had to concede I needed sleep and couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I worked up the courage and told them I was going to set up my tent and hit the hay. Generous once more, they insisted I didn’t waste my time setting up my tent in the rain. I should just share with them. Apparently, they had plenty of space. Looking at their shabby, three-man dome tent, barely standing, and I’m sure soaking wet from the relentless rain, we went back into our dance of me trying to be polite while they continued to insist. After five minutes of back and forward, I just went about my business. Midconversation I quickly set up my small hiking tent. “My home away from
home,” I insisted with a frightful smile. I thanked the guys for their outstanding company and wished them good night. I lay there on top of my sleeping bag, boots still on, pocketknife in one hand, bear pepper spray in the other, fighting back any urges of sleep. Spray, strike, run. Spray, strike, run. My mind was like an insistent flight attendant demanding you listen to the plan for the unlikely event that the plane catches fire and plummets to the ground. However, like always this stewardess failed to mention the first and most important step – don’t die on impact. I was in a nosedive but at least felt prepared and ready for imminent impact. After about 15 minutes of lying in wait, I heard their robust voices turn to soft, ominous whispers. My heart and mind began to race even faster. Adrenaline was flowing through my body. “Spray, strike, put my own oxygen mask on before helping others.” Shit! I was
scared and confused. In the cold still night air, I lay there silently, frozen by nerves as I listened to them whispering to each other. “What the hell are you fucking doing?! Are you high or just crazy?” one said. “Keep it down, or you’ll wake him,” said another. At this point, I knew they were talking about me. They were angry, and I was close to taking on the foetal position. “What was I meant to do? Why did you invite him back here? All I know is that no-one in their right mind rides a push bike through here,” one muttered. “Yeah, especially with bells on his feet, and mumbling like that. He’s obviously got a few screws loose,” came the reply. “Thank god he’s not staying in our tent, who knows what would have happened then. Still, sleep with one eye open tonight guys.” I can’t say reigning fear and unease over strangers has, or ever will, help me sleep so well again. But on this
occasion, it did and from that point on I drifted quickly into a pleasant and peaceful night’s sleep. Sometimes now when I sit back and reminisce, it brings me joy to know that somewhere on the far end of the planet, in an old run down diner, three burly blokes are sitting around recapping the harrowing story of the time they had a run in with a mysterious stranger. I hope the hairs stand up on the back of their necks when they tell of how they stumbled across him in the middle of an eerie, foggy night, in the remote woods. More than anything I hope the sound of small, soft bells gives them chills. ‘Dling, dling, dling’. Steven Geddes is a self-proclaimed ‘top bloke’. He loves a good story, filming, photography, and, of course, the natural world. www.instagram.com/road.to.home
FAREWELL WORDS AND IMAGES: Romilly Spiers LOCATION: Australia
“Where are you trying to get to?” “Melbourne.” “And how far did you say you’ve come?” “From Adelaide.” “It’s a miracle the bike’s made it this far!”
STANDING IN THE bike store in downtown Warrnambool, 700 kilometres from my starting point in Adelaide and still more than 300 kilometres from my destination, my old road bike propped against a post, I could feel my dreams of success slipping away as I answered the astonished bike mechanic’s gruff questions. A broken spoke and a cold dose of reality was grinding my adventure to a halt. “I can fix the wheel, but I doubt you’ll get to Melbourne. Chances are it’ll break again. Probably on a descent. Lots of traffic on the Great Ocean Road too. Especially over the weekend. No bike shops either, not till you reach the other end…” An hour earlier I’d been on the side of the highway, 70 kilometres from civilisation, staring at the remnants of my rear wheel; a particularly nasty encounter with what I’m sure was no more than a dried gum leaf, leaving me stranded. The mechanic’s warning conjured vivid images in my mind – a steep
descent, a heavily laden bike picking up speed, futile attempts to brake, wheels disintegrating, a body (mine) flying over the handlebars and into the path of an oncoming sedan packed with tourists, screeching brakes, cries of horror, tears, blood, broken bones and an embarrassing scattering of underpants and chamois cream. With the bike store back in focus, I grasped for one small remnant of the dream, “Reckon I could make it to the Twelve Apostles?” Attempting a long-distance bike ride had been on my mind for some time. With an overseas move imminent, it seemed the perfect chance to get to know my country a little better before leaving it; perhaps even an opportunity to feel like I did belong there – something I struggled with having grown up in the city, far removed from the vast and reputedly hostile outback. Research for my trip began, as so many of my adventures do, safely ensconced in my kitchen, typing random but relevant phrases into Google. ‘Long distance bike ride, Australia’, ‘What
should I have for dinner?’, ‘Overnight rides, Australia’, ‘Should I buy a guinea pig?’. The list goes on. There were so many choices – rail trails, coastal tracks, alpine ways. And then I hit gold. A detailed blog by a keen cyclist who had ridden from Adelaide to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road. I had travelled the Great Ocean Road, one of Australia’s popular tourist destinations, many times and often completed the route feeling frustrated. The narrow road, clinging to the cliffs of the Victorian south coast, is epic and the scenery breathtaking. But, at 243 kilometres long, it lends itself to car travel, which means negotiating hairpin bends and mountainous terrain while jammed into a long queue of fellow sightseers. With limited viewing points, you could easily find yourself driving the full length without seeing anything except an occasional teasing flash of ocean blue. Cycling would mean travelling slowly, drinking in the sights and experiencing the ups and downs of the landscape. As I planned my route and, in the
interest of keeping things affordable, found my bush camps, excitement grew, and I began to tell friends and family my plan. Immediately doubts were voiced. “Who are you going with?”, became a frustratingly repetitive question. Was it a concern for my growing loner tendencies, because they couldn’t fathom travelling solo, or simply because I was a girl and it was deemed ‘not safe’ without a man or at least a gaggle of female friends? I pushed on regardless, and it was a conversation with a fellow bike tourer that finally sealed the deal for me. “Did you train beforehand?” “Nup.” “Did you use a special bike?” “Nup”. With my trusty 12-speed road bike, circa 1975, by my side, I was set. Before the trip, I wrote list after list of the belongings I would need. The rewriting, revising and refining was entertaining and, said a little inner voice convincingly, “a mental form
of preparation just as important as anything more physical.” So, by the time it came to pack my bicycle, I was confident that I would be taking only essentials and my ‘natural fitness’ would probably see me through. Unfortunately, despite careful weighing of each ‘essential’ on the bathroom scales, my fully loaded bike proved monstrously heavy. A quick spin around the block was reassuring – it was evenly weighted and, once moving, wasn’t that hard to peddle, especially if the road was flat. The first day of my trip, despite good intentions, saw me setting off in the midst of Adelaide’s morning peak hour. All those bored commuters stuck in the daily grind and there I was, at the start of an adventure. I zoomed past packed buses feeling the freedom; I bumped over train tracks marvelling at my robust setup, even managing to stop at traffic lights, creating amusement amongst the monotony as I halted with a severe wobble. This was great. I was confident. I was euphoric. It wasn’t long before my euphoria was
dissipated. Just outside Adelaide’s city limits lie the unavoidable Adelaide Hills. Of course, ‘hill’ evokes images of gentle slopes but Adelaide’s ‘hills’ are 700 metres of truly torturous ascent. OK, regarding altitude, they don’t rate on a global scale, in truth they don’t even rate on a national scale, but on a bicycle with a dreadfully insufficient gear range and highly incompetent leg muscles, it felt akin to scaling the Himalayas. One hour in and I realised what a poor excuse of a bike tourer I was, my ineptitude made only clearer by a peloton of sprightly, lycra-clad retirees on sleek road bikes, taking it in turns to streak past with gentle clicks of modern derailleurs and a cheery, “Howdy!” As the hills carried on endlessly, my essentials started to feel nightmarishly like hundreds of kilos of luxuries trying to pull me backwards. “Do I need the tent?” “Is a sleeping mat necessary?” “Is ditching the spare inner tube tempting fate?” It was in these low moments that Google maps, my chosen (read ‘free’) route planner, decided to play one of its cruel tricks. “Turn left”, it confidently claimed. Left? Left would mean leaving
the paved road and bumping down an unimaginably steep track. Left would mean one hell of a retrace should it be wrong. But, if correct, the following left would be a shortcut. Sceptically, I turned left. Forty-five minutes later, sweating and aching, I found myself revisiting the site of Google’s outlandish claim, the promised left turn leading to nothing more than a rusty gate into an overgrown field. Hours later I collapsed into my first campsite. Seventy kilometres from my starting point, the Adelaide Hills conquered, and a full day of riding on the flat ahead of me, I was tired but happy. With the afternoon sun streaming through glistening gum leaves, there was nothing to do except cook a carb-rich dinner and curl up in my essential tent on my essential sleeping mat and call it a night. Over the next week, as cars, campervans and trucks careened by, I slowly crept towards the Great Ocean Road. I negotiated car ferries
and rough roads. I was a point of interest for bemused cows, of which entire herds would look up and stare. I befriended convoys of grey nomads also attracted by the free campsites but avoiding the inconvenience of limited amenities by trucking in their own. I became a convert to padded, spongy bike shorts and, after battling raging headwinds, I became an expert on beating the weather. My days started pre-dawn, breaking camp by the light of a torch and hitting the road while the sun rose, the air still and the shadows long, and they ended in the early afternoon, tent pitched, tea brewing, with nothing more than the quiet ticking of the warm bush to interrupt my thoughts. Of course, it wasn’t all plain sailing. I continued to be waylaid by routeplanner misdirections; the wind was difficult, the heat was intense, and the traffic, especially the heavily laden log trucks, was terrifying. At times, when particularly fatigued, my bike ride felt
less an adventure and more a poorly executed form of self-inflicted torture. Then, eight days and 550 kilometres from Adelaide, I came to a milestone. Denoted by a patch of gravel and an underwhelming sign, the South Australian-Victorian border. There was little incentive to pull over, however having reached this point by legs alone, it was a moment to celebrate. Plus, I had a South Australian apple that wasn’t allowed across the border with me. As I munched my illicit fruit, I read the neglected info panel. Titled ‘The Survey of the South Australian – Victorian Border’, it didn’t immediately spark interest but amongst the faded facts and figures was a sorry tale that shifted my perspective. I may have found it hard, with curses yelled, and doubts voiced, to reach this point but unlike those first surveyors I hadn’t once been forced to drink horse blood to survive. Nor had I been beaten back by inhospitable climes, I hadn’t failed three times and, unless very
unfortunate, it was unlikely to claim my life. I was also confident that years down the line, it wouldn’t come to light that I’d gotten it all wrong by a mere 3.6 kilometres. By day ten I was proceeding briskly along the A1 highway, and the Great Ocean Road was feeling tantalisingly close. With my thoughts drifting I barely glimpsed the gum leaf shaped object that brought me to a standstill. A slight bump, an audible hiss and suddenly my rear tyre was flat. Fortunately, despite my pain-addled thoughts in the Adelaide Hills, I had hung onto the, now essential, spare inner tube. I began to assess the situation, desperately hoping I could remember how to negotiate my bike’s ancient mechanics and remove not only the rear wheel but also reattach it. Within moments though I realised a spoke had broken and the structure of the wheel was compromised, leaving me in a far stickier predicament. Stuck on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, with my only hope of rescue a stranger in a car, was a situation I never imagined I’d experience. That, however, was exactly my position. I was in need of a bloke in a ute, a notion which, unfortunately, as a woman alone, I
found vaguely alarming. “Why are you travelling solo?,” my conscience groaned repetitively. However, with a huge four-wheel drive bearing down on me, technically the perfect candidate, there was little else to do except stick out my thumb. I suddenly saw the car’s blinker turn on, and my heart started to pound nervously. With my thumb a clear indication of “Help, I’m stranded,” there was no going back. The car pulled up beside me, and a large, muscular man jumped out. “G’day, I’m Jack.” The train from Warrnambool station quickly gathered speed. Outside my window a distance that should have taken days to cover passed in a blur, too fast to pick detail. From inside the drab train, all the landscape’s subtlety was flattened, and I felt barely a jolt as we raced toward Melbourne. Post break down, I hadn’t given up immediately. I managed to ride a small section of the Great Ocean Road, making it to the Twelve Apostles, a route highlight. However, with steep terrain ahead, an unpredictable bicycle and a constant stream of distracted tourists, common sense kicked in. Despite this, as I sat on the train with nothing to distract me, I felt an overwhelming sense of disappointment. I had failed. Little
voices of doubt niggled at me. Had I given up too easily? Should I have tried harder, done better? Was it all just a waste of time? Now, across the world, I think back on my trip and realise that, upon reflection, it was far from a failure. I rode 800 kilometres in 12 days, unassisted, on a vintage road bike. I camped in the bush, I befriended kind strangers, I visited unknown places, and I pushed myself harder than ever before. Though thousands of kilometres away, with grey skies, low temperatures and mist rolling past my window, I can shut my eyes and think back over my adventure, recalling the feel of the warm wind on my face, the smell of the eucalypt-perfumed air, the sounds of the hot bush mingling with the rattle of my bicycle and the sight of the shimmering, infinite horizon. I didn’t ride from Adelaide to Melbourne via the Great Ocean Road, but I did get to know my country a little bit better, and I did it all on my own. Romilly Spiers, an Australian expat living in the UK, is chasing her dream of being a wildlife cinematographer. In her spare time, she explores, both near and far, photographing the adventure along the way. www.romillyspiers.com www.instagram.com/romillyspiers
TREASURED ISLAND WORDS: Annabel Wilson IMAGES: Annabel Wilson and Kirsty Taylor LOCATION: New Zealand
“E! Ka nukunuku; E! Ka nekeneke,” chants Ari, my two-year-old charge. We’re navigating native bush towards the peak behind his house in Windy Canyon, Great Barrier Island. Hiking through the rugged and remote landscape the first inhabitants named Aotea, makes you want to burst into song. The lines from the local school haka meaning ‘it is moving, it is shifting’ are particularly apt.
BREAKING AWAY FROM the mainland at the end of the last ice age when volcanic activity caused sea levels to rise, Aotea separated from what is now the Coromandel Peninsula and became an island. Today, the island’s mana continues to lie in its uniqueness and isolation. To stay on Great Barrier Island is to break away from convention; a great escape from the rat-race into a slower way of life. On Aotea, there are no supermarkets, no banks, no ATMs, no street or traffic lights, no footpaths, no main drainage, no reticulated power, and limited cell phone reception. One of New Zealand’s last great wilderness areas, the place, known to residents as ‘GBI’, provides the ultimate backdrop for a summer adventure. The opportunity to stay on ‘The Barrier’ arose during a conversation over a beer. My mates Sam Rodney-Hudson and Nick Walker have been living there six months a year for the past couple of years with their two children, Zephyr and Ari. As Sam works online 20
hours a week, she mentioned she could use a hand with the boys in exchange for board and lodging at Hiwitahi. Meaning ‘One Peak’, their shared property is nestled in the coastal forest near Okiwi to the north of the island. You could also say it’s a conservation project, eco-retreat, bakery and microbrewery. Living off the grid like the rest of the Barrier community, Sam and Nick work hard at a sustainable lifestyle on their slice of paradise – DIY renovations, assisting forest regeneration, growing and catching their food, baking their bread, making homebrew and managing pest control. A week with their family provides an insight into the GBI existence. As I soon discovered, the home truths of life on The Barrier are linked to living in tune with nature while nurturing an environmentally-friendly future. Ninety kilometres northeast of downtown Auckland, Aotea is accessible by plane or boat. A 30-minute scenic flight to the island sets the tone for a
fascinating and inspiring break. We fly quite low over the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, green velveteen islands and marbled blue water mapping our way towards Great Barrier at its outer edge. Protected for its natural and cultural heritage, the Marine Park extends over an area of 1.2 million hectares of coast, ocean and islands. Named by Captain Cook in 1769 for the shelter and protection it provides, Great Barrier Island is the emerald amongst the Gulf ’s treasure trove. Aotea is the renowned, rich and resource-laden ancestral land of the Ngati Rehua hapu of Ngatiwai, who live on the island today and can trace their undisputed occupation back to the 17th century when chief Rehua claimed mana whenua and mana moana over its land and surrounding waters. Its significance to Māori is captured in the pepeha which dates to the early arrival of the Aotea canoe – Aotea whakahirahira, Aotea taonga maha, Aotea utanganui (Aotea the
island of renown, Aotea the island of many treasures, Aotea of the bountiful cargo). Said to be an important stopoff point because of its proximity to Polynesia, the earliest settlers would have been attracted by its mild climate and abundant food supply. Evidence of early life on Aotea can be seen at several archaeological sites including pa, terraced farms, umu, middens and stoneworking sites, mostly found on the coast. From the 1840s, Pakeha settlers also recognised the wealth of resources on Great Barrier, exploiting the island’s forests, minerals and migrating whales offshore. Thankfully the days of plunder are over and today two-thirds of the island are publicly owned and managed by the Department of Conservation. This means that the birds are coming back, the forest is recovering and now locals like Nick and Sam are focused on protecting Aotea’s natural riches. Arriving at Claris airport in his trusty ute, Nick collects me and my companion, Sally. We stop at the shop for supplies and drop in on another
Barrier local, Johnny, the ex-manager of Queenstown’s World bar, who is busy organising a community event for New Year’s Day. His partner informs us of the first of several island lessons we learn over the week; “Barrier people are reluctant to throw anything away”. Their garden features some old farm machinery the landlord doesn’t want to be removed, so they have instead incorporated them into their sanctuary. Hundreds of native seedlings are lined up in the nursery, the veggie patch is flourishing, and a cluster of wheelie bins hooded with corrugated plastic collect rainwater in addition to the large water tank beside the house. Here lies a glimpse into another Barrierism – water is precious. The island’s biodiversity and human activity are all interconnected with water. The natural resource of the surrounding Pacific Ocean fosters a rich ecosystem and a playground for boating, fishing, kayaking, diving, swimming and surfing. Aotea’s golden beaches are backed with tidal creeks and wetlands which host an array of endemic seabirds. During our escape, we spied
the rare black petrel, New Zealand dotterel, North Island kaka, brown teal, banded rail, oystercatcher, shining cuckoo, waxeye and were greeted morning and night by Hiwitahi’s resident tui. Stepping onto the cottage deck, the view instantly bewitched us. From its 300-metre perch, the property overlooks verdant valleys tumbling towards the sea with Rakitu Island framing the horizon. Pathways into primordial bush around the house have been carved by their neighbour Stu, enticing exploration. Nick leads the way as we traverse his backyard – a tangle of regenerating coastal forest. We weave below towering punga, ankles and faces brushed by soft ferns. Pausing to admire a lush nikau grove, we bushbash through dense supplejack and flowering kanuka until a small stand of 100-year-old kauri trees comes into view. It’s saddening to learn that the island’s thick kauri forests were logged with increasing intensity between the 1880s and early 1930s. These days, many walking tracks on Aotea follow old logging and milling tramway routes,
where logs estimated to contain over seven million feet of timber were felled, slid into rivers, processed then rafted to the mainland. A few acres of original forest survive, and much is regenerating like this little patch. Unfortunately, now kauri face a new threat. The mysterious and incurable dieback disease can infect kauri roots and damage the tissues that carry nutrients to the trees, rotting the plant from the inside out. There is no known treatment, and nearly all infected kauri die. For this reason, forest users must be vigilant about cleaning all equipment that encounters soil before and after leaving kauri forests. Many of the sites we visit over the week have cleaning stations at their entrances where we dutifully scrub and spray our gear. Writer Germaine Greer has controversial views about the best way to combat dieback disease, saying that the ‘check and clean’ measures are not enough and urging New Zealand to close its last remaining ancient kauri stands to the public. Back at the bach for our first island
meal, we are introduced to our next Barrierism – the local cuisine, which is outstanding. We dine on what Sam nicknames ‘Indian takeaways’, a meal regularly whipped up by Dave from down the road. His speciality is Spicy Rabbit Curry – the meat being the by-product of recent pest control. Accompanied with poppadums and a jam jar of Nick’s homebrew, the food tastes better because we know its story. Further freshly caught and foraged fare during our escape included slithers of paua, fire-baked tamura, cockle and pipi pasta, kina risotto, Vietnamese summer rolls filled with snapper, mint and coriander, Waiheke Island coffee (made daily on the machine that uses up a fair proportion of Hiwitahi’s solar power) and Sam’s homemade toasted muesli. Dave often pops in. He’s an interesting Island character with plenty of Barrierisms and insights to share. Longtime Okiwi resident, he owns and manages Island Stay Lodge next door. His two sons join Sally and me on our first activity as pseudo-nannies: an exploration of Okiwi school and Whangapoua beach. Seven-year-old
Zephyr is our tour guide as we check out the school, Te Kura O Okiwi. For many New Zealand kids, a visit to their school’s playground is a compulsory holiday activity, and there is much to discover at this one. The outdoor facilities are well set up for the country school’s 33 pupils, comprising an adventure playground, native plant nursery, chicken run, community swimming pool, playing courts and barbecue. The schoolchildren are kaitiaki (guardians) of the adjacent Okiwi Park, where they participate in planting projects and have crafted beautiful plaques informing visitors about the area’s unusual flora and fauna. Free of many of the introduced predators now present on the mainland, Aotea has become a haven for many native animals and plants. The chevron skink is found only here and on Little Barrier, and three plant species are endemic to the island – the Great Barrier tree daisy, hebe shrubs, and prostrate kanuka tree. Later in the week, we return to the park for the community Christmas picnic. Santa comes to visit, there’s a
lolly scramble beneath a mature puriri tree, a sausage sizzle, slack lining, and beats cranking as locals get together to welcome the festive season.
some of the island’s extensive network of tracks through forested ranges and spectacular coastlines, leaving us hungry for more.
Our stay also coincided with the arrival of the Flying Carpet – the yacht Sam and Nick co-own with mates. This happy event teaches us our next island lesson – having access to a boat on the Barrier is a no-brainer. On a blue-sky afternoon, we boarded the Carpet for a cheeky cider then caught the tender around the point to Sandy Bay. We basked on the café au lait-coloured shore and enjoyed the best aspects of a Kiwi summer – poking about in rock pools, making driftwood sculptures, sandcastles and dams, sunbathing, fishing, swimming, diving and losing track of time.
On our last day, we took the pramfriendly walk to Kaitoke Hot Springs. Starting from Whangaparapara Road inland from Claris, the path follows an ancient shoreline through wetlands and kanuka forest. We hear the calls of fernbirds and a spotless crake, and the youngest in our party breaks into his tramping refrain: “E! Ka nukunuku; E! Ka nekeneke…” Forty-five minutes later we find the hot pools. Dammed at a fork in Kaitoke Creek, the series of sulphurous springs vary in depth and temperature. It’s worth dipping a toe in each, Goldilocks style until you find the pool that is just right. Surrounded by delicate umbrella fern, the deepest pool a quick scramble upriver is our preferred spot. We wallow like the Swiss Family Robinson in the warm waters Māori warriors used to rejuvenate in after battle. Said to have healing properties, the water certainly leaves the skin feeling soft and the mind reset.
By now we’ve become well-versed in perhaps the most important Barrierism – islands are for exploring. Aotea is New Zealand’s fourth-largest landmass, yet remains undiscovered by most Kiwis. More than a bucketlist destination, those who make the trip soon realise one stint isn’t enough. Seven days provided scope to sample
After a taster of life on Aotea, my thoughts hover around how to manifest my next stretch there. Now I’ve learnt the Barrier ways, I’m working on a longer-term stay. As the words of Ari’s lyrics propose, hopefully, this will happen soon. “Moving gradually, moving swiftly,” he sings in te reo. Annabel Wilson is a Wellington-based educator, traveller and writer, so she has one foot on each of New Zealand’s main islands. Her current obsessions are hot pineapple, finding the perfect snowflake and escapades in search of the horizon. www.onmag.co.nz F www.facebook.com/on.magazine.nz www.instagram.com/onmagaz1ne t www.twitter.com/OnMagNZ
FOLLOWING PAGE: Fierce – Justina MAKU Bisset is a New Zealand-born, self taught, illustrative artist currently living in Melbourne, Australia. Her signature style combines soft, delicate, watercolour with tough, bold edges of acrylic. www.makusart.com F www.facebook.com/makusart www.instagram.com/makusart t www.twitter.com/makusart
A YEAR ON THE ROAD AN ATTITUDE OF EXPLORATION WORDS AND IMAGES: Carmen Huter LOCATION: Everywhere
Time: 6pm. Location: Somewhere in Morocco, between the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert. Physical and emotional state: An odd mixture of exhaustion, thrill and anticipation. The usual, one could say. TO TRAVEL IS to live. Words – admittedly, somewhat forced – I remind myself, while the fuel warning’s high-pitched noise makes it harder and harder to concentrate. Stopping doesn’t seem like an appropriate option, given the fact that we – my better, equally adventurous, currently careless half and I – are driving through the Moroccan desert. As the sun sets, we continue to push the limits of our rental car. Petrol stations, let alone houses are a rare sight down here. The freedom of the open road (in this case, a dirt track) is seductive, serendipitous and liberating. How beautifully endearing the views in front of us are. Scenes filled with endless shades of brown and orange; a mix of rust, rock, and sand. Enough with the daydreaming, I remember. Fuel is what we need, not some inspirational Instagram caption. Now, where does
one get fuel in the middle of nowhere? My name is Carmen. I was born in Austria, and ever since I first sat on a plane to the other side of the world, namely New Zealand, a few years ago, I’ve had difficulty keeping still. There’s much to see, so I made it my mission to explore. Let’s be honest, such ambitions aren’t particularly remarkable coming from someone born in the early 1990s. The privilege of continuous access to information, to countries near and far, and to political stability for many western millennials has sparked an ever-growing sense of wanderlust. What it has also sparked, however, is an attitude of massive content consumption. In an effort to shift my very own paradigm, I intend to create, not consume. Or at least create more than I consume. Hence my year on the road.
Never intended, it just so happened that I found myself in a foreign place for most of 2016. I nearly ran out of fuel in Morocco with my partner in crime. I solo-hiked many walks across my beautiful new home Aotearoa as well as my namesake’s homeland Spain. I hid from moose in Canada and learned about Fado in Madeira. I wondered and wandered in Israel and galloped through Petra. There were turtles in Australia, too much wine in Italy, and days on end in French museums. But there was something else, too. There was a shift, a change of mindset. Sharing tea with customs officers on my Moroccan arrival unravelled laughter, not weariness. Exuberant palaces in Portugal let the most colourful dreams come to life. But, most importantly, walking the endless streets of such countries created a
kaleidoscope of experiences with insight I would have never even dreamed of gaining. Insight such as the importance, no, the monumental weight anyone and everyone must place on doing social good. On paying it forward and looking after those most vulnerable. A year on the road, filled with a diversity of adventures and cultures, made me understand what it takes to build a community; to create a society, others, like myself, are so intrigued by they might just visit. A community like the one in Lisbon’s old town. One where neighbours share bread and washing lines frame the streets. One where the homeless are an integral part of society, being actively offered not just shelter, but respect and jobs, like in Vancouver. One where resilience and hospitality are indispensable, even after megatyphoons wiping out thousands of
homes, like in the Philippines. Insight such as this invites a new attitude. An attitude of not merely seeing, but exploring the places I, we, go. Spending a year on the road showed me that it’s not individual success or material accumulation that leads to happiness. But it’s much rather the idea of a resilient, connected community, collective intent, and access to nature that perfectly links up with individual and societal satisfaction. Now, reading and watching it from our perceived comfort zone is the easy part. However, one will never truly grasp such ideas unless one has felt it in person. By doing so, the act of travelling becomes more personal and meaningful to me. I talk less and listen more. I move with more intention and learn to embrace uncertainty. All the while, my soul is filled with ever-more passion for exploring, adventuring,
learning and seeing more. I begin to cultivate a repertoire of experiences, understanding and networks alike. In the end, that’s what it’s all about. Let’s all say 'yes' to adventure. Yes, to la dolce vita; yes, to a rustic fare in the shadow of snow-capped mountains; yes, to memorable escapades in the jungle; yes, to a new pace of life and yes to living out your heart’s most vivacious, wildest desires. Carmen Huter spends her time photographing, writing, and exploring. A curious eye and genuine enthusiasm for connecting the ordinary every day with the extraordinary worlds of travel and style are what drives her. www.carmenhuter.com www.instagram.com/carmenhuter
BEATING THE STORM WORDS: Márcio Bortolussso IMAGES: Márcio Bortolussso and Fernanda Lupo LOCATION: Brasil
An extra-tropical cyclone combined with a strong cold front produced one of the most destructive storms of the last decade in the South and Southeast of Brazil. It punished 1,300 kilometres of coast with winds of more than 100 kilometres per hour, which produced waves with up to five metres of face in some areas. IN LIFE WHAT generates chaos for some can be the salvation of others. As the Fire Department and Civil Defence attended hundreds of incidents, which included buried houses, landslides and washed away cars, we (the athletedocumentarist Fernanda Lupo and I) decided to face this historic storm on the eve of a daring expedition that had already consumed our last five years. To spice up this impromptu training, more than just going out to ‘paddle during a storm', we took the opportunity to hold a Rock Gardening session on the Coast of Shipwrecks. It’s one of the most crucial areas for navigation along the Brazilian coast, located to the south of the Ilhabela Archipelago, an area consistently battered by powerful cold fronts and as its name suggests, is ill-famed for being a ship’s graveyard. White Water is well-known as the descent of rivers and rapids, but in the ocean, the challenge is called Rock Gardening and consists of creating lines through the waves, a sort of ‘rock garden’ at sea, crossing narrow passages or stepping over sharp blocks briefly covered by foam. One of the most extreme and lesser-known forms of kayaking, it unfortunately also means greater risk. After a few invitations and declinations, we finally convinced the paddler Evaldo Plado, who agreed to exceed his limits and reinforced the safety of our team. To ensure we have the skills required for such demanding and technical adventures, we need to practise various
techniques in difficult conditions to prepare ourselves for worst-case scenarios. What may appear as insanity is the result of years of training and the use of proper equipment (satellite devices, quality clothing, etc.). We studied meteorology and outdoor survival and mastered various techniques. After all, opening a map and dreaming up new challenges is the easy part. According to the Beaufort Wind Scale, a storm is classified as having speeds between 89 and 102 kilometres per hour. On this specific day, forecasters reported 103.7 kilometre-per-hour winds in the most sheltered area of Ilhabela. As we were on the oceanic side of the archipelago and more exposed to the severe south quadrant, the wind probably overtook these marks and generated a destructive, violent storm – Grade 11 – on a scale that goes up to 12 (hurricane). It was an unforgettable spectacle that blended tension and thrills under the Patagonian climate. Huge waves exploded on the rocks like dynamite, forming fans up to ten metres high and big enough to make even the most experienced sailor worried. The sea seemed to be covered by furious polar bears and was so cold that it was essential to paddle with more than one thermal layer underneath our wetsuits. Massive walls of salt water were hitting me with full force, forcing me to repeat a series of actions so as not to hit the rocky bottom or be thrown against the coast. Memorising the rocks in
the area, I would paddle with ‘almost’ all my strength (reserving something for a contingency), emerging through the walls of water, using my paddle to brace me and keep me far enough away from unsuspecting rocks. I repeated this sequence until I passed the worst waves of each session, which came every five minutes. Punches, hits on chest and slaps in the face were on the menu this day, with no time to rest or reposition myself in safe places, before being swallowed up and dragged by a new mass of foam into areas so shallow that they left scars on my boat. Feeling heavy and uncoordinated, with the impression that my hatches were full with water, I kept my focus – “Don’t turn, if you turn do not dare miss the roll, don’t turn.” Exhausted from the force of nature and now without enough energy for a simple 180-degree turn, the only option remaining was to return to the mainland. There is a fine line that divides safety and risk; it was certainly an experience I will never forget. It demanded the utmost of my knowledge and taught me more than a hundred trips under clear blue skies could ever do. Márcio Bortolusso is a Brazilian explorer, extreme photographer, filmmaker and multisport athlete. He is passionate about kayaking adventures and unexplored mountain expeditions. www.photoverde.com.br. F www.facebook.com/marciobortolusso.OFICIAL www.instagram.com/marcio.bortolusso_doc. explorer
WHAT WAS IT LIKE? WORDS AND IMAGES: Dan Kerins LOCATION: New Zealand
It wasn’t like anything. I was suddenly awake. Our small beachside home was rattling, engulfed by a noise I didn’t understand. I made my way to the door frame, past the trembling walls then into the kitchen. Everything we owned was crashing around me. I was in a ceramic and glass salad being tossed from pillar to post. I could see my girlfriend wedged in the door frame, the full moon lighting up the juddering edges now broken to smithereens. The noise was like an ancient force calling from beneath. FOR A MOMENT, the violence dimmed to rage, and we fled through the patio door into the wobbling garden, the air still, the world in violent tremor. At this point, you’re supposed to grab your emergency pack, collect warm clothes, supplies, and your windup radio, safely packed somewhere convenient. You’re also meant to punch sharks in the eyes when they attack, reach into the crocodile’s mouth and stand still when the elephant charges. You don’t. You flee. Your body shortcuts 50 millennia of civilisation, and you are 200,000 years straight back to the African plains. You are running, every molecule of your being remembers, beyond fear and terror, there is flight.
For all our technology, our understanding and striving for more, in that shaking instant it becomes acutely apparent we are still just humanoids lost in space and ruled by a predisposition to survive. As we ran in the dark, barefoot, deeply concerned that if the epicentre were out at sea, then there would surely be a tsunami approaching, I didn’t feel the juddering sharp gravel. I didn’t feel the chill of the night. My veins were bursting, and my legs possessed. We were out the house and had run 400 metres by the time the initial quake ceased. We headed for higher ground, across slumped bridges, several times jumping in people’s cars and driving only a few metres before big cracks in the road
opened before us, stopping us in our tracks. We heard the sound of cows helpless and wailing and watched as power poles were banging from side to side. With each massive aftershock, a new wave of chemicals from our adrenal glands arrived. We got to higher ground and waited, listening to the landslide in the mountain ranges behind. We sat in someone’s car, listening to the radio, catching our breath, like survivors of a shipwreck waiting for dawn. We didn’t know it at the time, but just two minutes after midnight on that night a 7.8 magnitude earthquake centred in Culverden, bubbled up from the depths and triggered a complex series of both strike-slip and thrust
faults, rupturing at a speed of two kilometres a second for 200 kilometres northward. The entire event lasted for two minutes with the worst of the shaking lasting 50 seconds. The Hope, Hundalee, Waipapa and Kekerengu faults were among six major fault lines that all ruptured in rapid succession, driving the seabed upward, pulling Cape Campbell two metres closer to the North Island, shunting Kaikoura northeast by nearly a metre, and forcing it upwards by 70 centimetres. A tsunami did hit just before daybreak, a two-and-a-half metre surge, thankfully only causing minimal damage. It was one of the largest and most complex earthquakes recorded in New Zealand’s European history. The aftershocks kept coming; bellowing rumbles and pulses of adrenaline still pumping as we were dropped off at a rural crossroad on the plains somewhere between the sea, the mountains and a blood red sky. The hills were dusty, and the sea looked guilty.
Dawn broke across the panorama of Kaikoura, a place that I have had the privilege to call home for the last four years, and the aftermath of this big, complex, fascinating and destructive event started to unfold. As an outsider, an immigrant to this land, to witness the way this community ‘got stuck right in’ within hours was incredible. The resourcefulness, resilience and sense of co-operation the people showed is something I will never forget. It is a deep self-reliance, born from the necessity of living in these sublime and remote islands, which comes into its own at times like these. The outpour of support from the rest of New Zealand toward those affected and the sheer rate of recovery is a testament to the vitality of this young nation. These images are a document of that immediate aftermath, and I’d like to think they speak for themselves. They are the product of my experience of ‘the
quake’ and hopefully, an honest one. For all our confused feelings towards nature, for all our cave paintings and Instagram feeds, our pollution and desecration, our classifications and observations, our gushing admiration and relentless exploitation, it matters little. Our sentiments are not reciprocated; nature is without sentiment. It is older and bigger than us, and it moves in ways we shall never fathom, on this pulsating rock, alone, out here in space. Now living in New Zealand, curiosity got the better of Dan Kerins long ago, setting a course to specialise in ill-planned and underfunded excursions into the lesser known for the best part of two decades, always with camera in hand. To this day travel remains a deep passion and photography a complementary obsession. www.dankerinsphotography.com F www.facebook.com/dankerinsphotog/ www.instagram.com/dankerinsphotog/ t www.twitter.com/dankerinsphotog
SPICED APPLE CAKE RECIPE AND IMAGE: Genevieve King
2 ½ cups apple, peeled and cubed (3-4 apples) 200g butter, chopped into pieces 1 ½ cups sugar 2 large eggs 2 tsp cinnamon 1 tsp each of nutmeg, allspice and salt 2 ½ cups flour 2 tsp baking soda 1 cup sultanas (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 160°C. Line a large spring-form cake tin with baking paper. In a large pot, place the chopped apples and just cover with water. Bring to the boil and cook with the lid on until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain water. Add butter to the hot apples and set aside until melted. Add sugar, eggs and sultanas. Stir well. Add dry ingredients and fold in gently, until just combined. Transfer cake mix into the lined tin. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The cake should be springy to the touch, with a skewer coming out just clean.
Pears or peaches can be thrown in with the apple; use up whatever is in season and readily available. For special occasions double the recipe, make two cakes and layer them up with salted caramel. SALTED CARAMEL
1 cup white sugar 85g butter, cut into cubes ½ cup heavy cream 1 tsp salt
115g butter 1 cup white sugar ¾ cup sesame seeds, toasted 1 tsp flaky sea salt
Heat the sugar in a pot, stirring continuously. It will form clumps and eventually melt. Once melted, immediately add butter and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Slowly drizzle in cream. Boil 1 minute then remove from heat and add salt. Leave to cool, then transfer to a jar and store in the fridge.
Melt the butter and sugar at a medium heat. Cook without stirring until it has turned a medium caramel colour. Stir in sesame seeds. Pour over baking paper. Spread out to 5mm thickness, sprinkle sea salt over and gently press into the surface. When cold, break into pieces.
Recipe and image reproduced with permission from Valley Gathering by Genevieve King. Published by Something Beginning with G. NZ$45 + Shipping
Valley Gatherings is the first book by Genevieve King. Inspired by the valley where she grew up, Genevieve has shown a glimpse of life in the area with photos, stories and recipes using local produce. She is also a raft guide on the river, and you can read about one of her recent adventures on page 42. www.somethingbeginningwithg.com
DOING IT THE NOR-WAY WORDS: Sadao Tsuchiya IMAGES: Sadao Tsuchiya and Karen Retter LOCATION: Norway
The first mission on our arrival to Oslo was to find a Den Norske Turistforening (DNT, The Norwegian Trekking Association) office, so we could sign up to become members and gain the much-needed DNT key. The DNT maintains many tourist huts and tracks in Norway, and unstaffed huts are exclusive to members who have a key to open them. We came out of the office with two membership cards, a key, topographical maps and bus tickets to take us to the start of our adventure. “IF YOU LIKE tramping in New Zealand’s South Island, you’d like tramping in Norway, too.” This comment from one of my clients on a guided hike had stuck in my head for many years. Karen and I were about to tick off another item from the bucket list – a tramping trip across the highest national park in Norway, Jotunheimen Nasjonalpark – The Home of the Giant. After spending a night at Gjendesheim hut, located at the eastern entrance to the park, we set off early for our fiveday tramp. This day was the biggest day, climbing over Besseggen Ridge. Most hikers staying in the hut took the early boat toward Memurubu, our destination for the day. During the last ice age glaciers carved these valleys
out of the huge mountains, and the colour of Lake Gjende is evidence of its tributaries. The track was marked by red T’s painted on rock cairns, leading us up to the ridge. After three hours of climbing, we reached a large cairn, with a panoramic view overlooking both clear, blue Lake Bessvatnet, and the silky Lake Gjende. The Besseggen Ridge separates the two lakes at different heights – Bessvatnet is 400 metres higher than Gjende. The blue Scandinavian sky was clear, and the weaker August sunshine accentuated the stunning scenery. The descent along the narrow rocky ridge required a bit of care; balance was not easy with the heavy load in our backpacks (four days of food!).
It was about this time we started to encounter many day walkers coming the other way. We soon realised why so many hikers took the morning boat to Memurubu. They choose to walk in the other direction – climbing the ridge instead of down. Much easier! After eight hours of ascent and descent, we finally arrived at the Memurubu Hut. We knew there were no self-catering areas in the staffed huts in Norway, and Memurubu was no exception. We had some concern about cooking inside the bunkroom, so while the sun was still high and the wind was low, we headed down to the campground to cook up our spaghetti. Surrounded by big mountains and crisp blue sky it was a great spot to reflect on the
held on to each other as we walked, clinging ‘We on to rocks when the gusts became too strong.’ day’s walk. Back in the bunk room, we found the group of older Belgian men that we would be rooming with didn’t share our concern and were cooking their dinner. Each of the staffed huts has a weather forecast, so we knew a front was approaching on the day we were to walk from Memurubu to Gjendebu. We could have taken the afternoon boat to skip that section, but the forecast for nor’ westerlies at 15m/s (54km/h) didn’t sound too bad, and we decided to give it a go. The first two hours climbing was okay, however, once we reached the top of the ridge, the gale force winds picked up, following the valleys on one side of the mountains, then bursting up with force, hitting the ridge we were walking along. A couple of older Norwegian men with plastic ponchos and day packs passed us, heading in the other direction. We held on to each other as we walked, clinging on to rocks when the gusts became too strong. Sheltering behind a rock, Karen said, “If we die here, Norwegians reading the newspaper will be quick to judge us as foreign trampers, under prepared for the Scandinavian mountains,” just as we are guilty of doing when reading the papers at home. While chatting with the Belgians the previous night, they mentioned that the track to the hut is very rocky with chains to climb down. Given the weather, we decided to take the longer but more gentle track. It was the right decision. Once we had escaped from the ridge, the wind and rain eased, but the next couple of hours descent felt much longer than it was. We were frustrated that the forecast was only for lake-level, and it is so different where we walked. Or maybe we missed that
information because of our limited understanding of Norwegian? After staying at DNT Gendebu hut, the weather had improved the next morning. Our gear was almost dry, and we were happy enough to start the day. As we approached the small saddle above Vesladalen the trees got shorter, and we came out to a vast, open area, like standing on the moon. There were rocky tors around us; high desert stretched as far as we could see, broken only by someone’s tent standing alone. We walked through this landscape for the next few hours, navigating the rock scree around Rauddalsegge Peak before we spotted the DNT Olavsbu hut in the distance, which soon became our favourite hut of the tramp. DNT Olavsbu was the only selfserviced hut on our tramp. We took out the key to open the hut, but found it was already unlocked. We lost our only chance to open a hut the Norwegian way. It turned out only three Norwegian couples were staying in the hut, making it feel off the beaten track. Since Karen was a child, her dad taught her to explore the hut facilities upon arrival, and she adhered to the habit. Prizes this time were an ‘honesty box’ provisions cupboard, a tiny drying room heated by a potbelly stove, and Norwegian Scrabble (complete with Å and Ø). We enjoyed a tin of reindeer meatballs and instant mashed potato from the provisions, which we justified as a cultural experience. We soaked up real Norwegian backcountry – reading a book with a candle, chatting quietly and spending a calm and peaceful night. Next stretch to Skogadalsboen was tough and cold although an improvement on our ‘Extreme Norway’ day. The afternoon sunshine had just started to come out when we arrived at
the hut with other trampers chatting outside enjoying some beers at the picnic tables. To celebrate our last night on the track, we carefully chose a tap beer, the cheapest option available at 35 Norwegian kronor ($7). After pouring the beer, the lodge manager asked us to pay 90NOK ($18). I exchanged a worried look with Karen and told him, “Sorry. That wasn’t what we ordered.” It became his turn to be confused. After some broken English and sign language, we found out that the cheaper beer was alcohol-free, so we stuck with the most expensive beer we have ever had, in a plastic cup – one between two of us. On our last morning, the sky had cleared up. The track followed the Ulta River, which was still swollen from the last few days of rain and resulted in spectacular waterfalls. This valley was much greener, with old shepherds' huts dotted along the track and sheep grazing around them. Climbing to the head of the valley the view changed again, and it took our breath away. An infinite number of tarns and lakes were dotted on the Tundra Plateau, with the mountains covered by large sheet glaciers. An hour walk led us to the western end of the National Park at Sognefjellshytta (Sogn Forest Hut) – and our final destination. Sadao Tsuchiya is a hiking guide, currently living in Queenstown, New Zealand. Born and bred in the countryside of Tokyo, he became a forestry researcher in both the New Zealand and Japanese mountains. Now a guide on the Routeburn and Milford Tracks in the New Zealand summer, he also takes Japanese hiking tours to the European Alps. www.instagram.com/carrot.and.greenpeas
FIVE PASSES, FOUR GIRLS WORDS: Stephanie Lambie IMAGES: Stephanie Lambie and supplied LOCATION: New Zealand
I first met Selena five years ago in our first year at Otago University, but our history started 62 years earlier when our grandfathers tramped together on many adventures through the Southern Alps. The most memorable of those being a two-week epic to the Olivine Ice Plateau on New Zealand’s West Coast. HAVING SPENT MOST of our respective childhoods outside, we decided in a moment of madness to retrace the steps of our grandfathers, and return to the Olivine Ice Plateau. Soon enough, however, we realised that we had very few of the skills required for that kind of expedition. After revising our plan, we settled on a more modest excursion through the kind-offamous-but-not-really Five Pass Route in Mt Aspiring National Park. The plan was to complete it in four days, with four girls and slightly insufficient three ice axes. The Queenstown region over the New Year period was absolute chaos and overflowing with people, to the point that even Glenorchy, quite literally on the way to (admittedly, a very pretty) nowhere, was teeming with people. So
many, in fact, that after tramping up the Dart River for four hours we came across tour upon tour of tourists in fun yaks, locals on jet skis and holiday makers in jet boats. Speaking from experience, it is advisable to remember that, when crossing the Beans Burn, one should look left, right and then left again to avoid getting skittled by a jet boat. Had we forded the river 15 seconds earlier, this article could have possibly been an obituary. Some time later, we forgot about the jet boats and tourists, and continued our way toward the first of the Five Passes. At every break, we were busy reading and rereading Moir’s Guide North so that, when the time came to begin the first ‘technical’ route of the trip, we would know exactly what to do. On the ascent to Fohn Saddle,
Moir says, “Climb a small gut on the true right of the river”. Despite knowing the instructions by heart, we, in eager anticipation to begin the climb, saw an obvious gut (which was in hindsight by no means small) and thought, ‘Yes. That’s it.’ It wasn’t. We only realised this about half way up when two of us got stuck and were unable to get back down, and so our only option was to keep heading up. We decided to divide and conquer, sending the other two a different way. We reconvened an hour later on a small ledge, somewhat relieved to be with life and limb. The theme song of the climb (and consequently the rest of the trip) became Coldplay’s, The Scientist, “Nobody said it was easy... No one ever said it would be this hard…”. To celebrate having survived the first
is nothing quite like the pitter patter ‘There of the rain while trudging down a valley.’ of our five passes and losing only one map, a few marbles and gaining a lightly sprained ankle, we decided a swim in some ice melt would be a sound method of making us feel alive again. Although, I can only imagine the disdain felt by a group of two who wandered past our swimming hole. Here they were, two days walk from anywhere, only to find their wilderness experience disrupted by a group of rowdy girls, whooping their way through a swim. To their credit, the pair allowed us a brisk nod before heading on their way.
were delighted to find a small patch of snow, making lugging our ice axes worth it. We were going to be so safe on this small snow slope, once we had figured out which way around to hold the ice axes, the side of our bodies to plant them on and how to divide three ice axes between four people (three-quarters of an ice axe each?). We descended slowly and carefully down the slope, stopping to take obligatory photos with the ice axes in as many different angles as humanly possible with the team looking happy, sad, nonchalant, pensive (the list goes on).
Saving weight had always been a priority for us, unsure if we could handle the tramp without packs, let alone with them. As a result, the sleeping arrangement was the most archaic orange tent fly you could imagine. The fly is highly functional in the bush where there are tall trees to pitch it from. But above bush line on the Olivine Ledge, trees are few and far between, let alone two near one another. While I would say that the team designated to setting up camp (which included me) did a fantastic job, it was hard to get past the fact that the fly, pitched with two walking poles at maximum extension, was but centimetres from our faces when lying flat. Needless to say, the fly did little to keep any of us dry that night, even though it was a rain-free experience.
On the descent from Fiery Col to Cow Saddle, we enjoyed being educated by our resident ‘Fun Fact Authority’ as to why Cow Saddle was called Cow Saddle. She informed us that the tarns were the patches on the cow hides that the giants had used to lie over their steeds (presumably the mountains) before riding them (the giants weren’t in a rush to get anywhere, apparently), a long time ago before the kiwi had flown to New Zealand from Australia (another fun fact). After being passed by two groups of much older trampers on the way down Hidden Valley, which was only mildly demoralising, we found ourselves at the bottom of Park Pass. The spur that the rough track followed required us to channel our inner spirit animals (the tortoise – for all of us) to make it to the top.
Three of the five passes on the third day sounded like a much better idea in the planning stages of the trip than on the day itself. And yet, it now had to be done. On the top of Fiery Col, the second of our five passes, we
On the fourth and final day, it rained. Which was just as well, or we probably wouldn’t have wanted to leave. There is nothing quite like the pitter patter of the rain while trudging down a valley. This day was the only day that there
was an official track, those reassuring orange markers nailed to trees guiding us on our way. However, the unfortunate truth of having a track is an increase in traffic, which comes with an increase in general wear and tear on the track. As such, three of the four of us found ourselves swimming in waistdeep mud at least once during this day. And then there was the fifth and final pass; the smallest of them all. There is something about the final hurdle; it makes some people have all this ‘get up and go’, and others want to complain loudly every step of the way. It had the former effect on my three friends and the latter effect on me. The last ten minutes of the route follows the Routeburn Track Nature Walk. I have never felt so ridiculous in my life, as we limped past the nature walkers, dressed in expensive and ohso-clean outdoor gear, while we were covered in mud, carrying big packs and funny looking walking sticks with odd spiky bits that were far too short for anyone. I couldn’t help but think that the other people must be asking themselves what we were doing so wrong to come off the Routeburn that dirty and requiring all that gear. If only they knew. A true traveller, Stephanie Lambie doesn’t believe just visiting a place is enough, choosing instead to move her life from continent to continent on a half-yearly basis. She occasionally finds the time to return to her homeland and one true love… the New Zealand Wilderness!
CHO OYU WORDS AND IMAGES: Mike Heydon LOCATION: Tibet
Earth has 14 peaks above 8,000 metres, all of which can be found in the Himalayas. They are magnificent, beautiful, and some days, deadly. To respond to the thickening of the blood at altitude, red blood cells develop to transport oxygen around the body. The problem is that red blood cells also elevate clotting risk. Warning signs are displayed everywhere in the mountains, and both locals and visitors regularly talk about altitude sickness and its symptoms. We were told that if a human travelled by helicopter from sea level straight to a height of 8,000 metres, they would be dead within minutes. Your body starts to shut down. Humans aren’t meant to be here. LOCATED ON THE border of Nepal and Tibet, Cho Oyu is usually climbed from Tibet to the north, despite the many difficulties it can take to obtain permission from the Chinese Government, which has held control of the territory since 1959. We flew into Llasa, the region’s capital, where everyone is screened for yellow fever by having their body temperature read by a camera. Mine was found to be higher than normal, probably because I was feeling self-conscious about the small pillow I had taken from the Air China flight to provide some additional luxury at base camp. I was sternly advised that I couldn’t
enter Tibet if I failed another scan in a few minutes. This, of course, made me a nervous wreck while the rest of the expedition found it hilarious. After that, I became ‘Hot Mike’. I suppose there are worse nicknames. The culture shock in Lhasa was intense. Cultural tensions and the visible gap between living standards in the traditional areas and the newer, Chinese areas were just so profound. We were advised to not carry any literature referring to the Dalai Lama, or we would likely be deported. We didn’t stay there for long and headed off in 4x4s to the mountains and base camp.
The rapid altitude gain of the first leg affected each of us differently. I had hideous headaches that lasted for days. We were still only at 4,000 metres, which made me doubtful that I would make it any higher, resulting in a bad mood to boot. At 5,750 metres above sea level, the Cho Oyu Base Camp is one of the highest in the world, sitting 400 metres higher than Everest’s. This was home for four weeks while we acclimatised and climbed. It was still like a tropical resort compared to our higher camps that were to follow. At Base Camp, the nine climbers had their own tents, two guides and eight
Sherpas supporting us and plenty of good food. At last, we started out on the four acclimatisation cycles to Camp One, at 6,400 metres, and back again. This meant four climbs over a hideous rocky moraine, the angry remnant of a depleted glacier. The relentlessly steep terrain was a tough mental challenge, especially the first cycle, which we completed in a single day. I struggled to imagine I could climb it another three times and counted down with desperate optimism. “After this one, we’ll be on the second to last cycle… after that time, there’s only one more training cycle, just one more and then we’re on our summit push!” Listening to music was better than hearing that voice in my head accompanied by my laboured breathing. If the days were bad, the nights were misery. It was cold – down to -20°C – and the combination of waking disorientated, feeling nauseous, and uncontrollably gasping for air took
some getting used to. Icicles would cover everything and those on the ceiling would fall occasionally. The first night I spent at Camp One, the nausea didn’t leave, and I woke to the sound of another climber vomiting. Ah, the serenity. Nothing at this altitude is fast or easy. Toileting, eating, drinking, getting dressed. Add darkness to the mix, and it’s another whole level of difficulty. Getting into my heavy down jacket and pants inside a small tent was comically slow. One morning I made the mistake of taking my glove liners off briefly to make breakfast in the tent. I couldn’t get warm again so, to the amusement of the departing group, I resorted to dropping my pants to my ankles to get my hands closer to the warmest part of my body – my groin. ‘Hot Mike’ is what they call me. The day before our summit push, we arrived at Camp Two around midafternoon. Unlike most other teams, we didn’t sleep at Camp Three before the
summit push, opting instead to climb from Camp Two (7,200 metres). We would conserve strength by sleeping at lower altitude, traded off by a longer climb on summit day. We awoke at midnight. I’ll never forget the memory of opening my eyes and realising what I was about to go through – nervousness, terror, excitement, and the relief that the weeks of suffering would be over, summit success or not. 1am: We depart Camp Two. The creeping trail of headlamps would have looked pretty in the pitch darkness, but I saw only my plodding feet in the headlamp beam. 4am: We arrive at Camp Three to a murder scene in the snow, or so it looked. Blood spray had flown from one of the tents, with large chunks of something amongst it. It turned out to be the violent vomiting of a climber from another expedition, who had developed high altitude pulmonary
oedema after summiting the day before. We switched our oxygen canisters for fresh ones delivered earlier by our sherpas. My competitiveness kicked in, and I charged off into the darkness, determined to reach the summit of this mountain so I could get back to life with green trees and the sunshine, but I came to an abrupt stop after 20 metres. It was thousands of miles from the ocean, but I felt that I was drowning, suffocating. Just. Couldn’t. Get. Any. Air. Someone yelled to turn up my oxygen flow. I slowed my rhythm. One foot moved forward. Then the other, and the other, repeating this process for the next few hours. Often it was a case of taking three steps, pausing to rest, and then taking another three steps. Mountain climbing is mostly about suffering. You stagger along and wonder why you’re there and why on earth you’re doing this.
And then, amazingly, we were there – the summit of Cho Oyu, the sixth highest peak on Earth. My tent mate Danny – another Kiwi – our Sherpa guides Pasang Bhotje and Da Jangbu and I had done it. The summit was a vast expanse extending hundreds of metres in each direction, not the typical spiky chunk of rock where a few people can perch at once. Prayer flags of different ages flapped around in the wind that slapped across my face and made breathing without oxygen extremely uncomfortable. The first light was stunning. I looked across the Himalayas and the expanse of the Tibetan Plateau to Shishapangma, another 8,000-metre peak, and the Khumbu Valley and Ama Dablam, said to be the most beautiful mountain of them all. I wouldn’t disagree. There were no high fives or back slaps.
I felt overwhelmed by relief, grateful for everything I have in life, and emotional at the thought that the job was still only half done. After 20 minutes, which included the predictable summit selfie, we turned to descend. Everest had finally emerged from the clouds, but we couldn’t stop any longer. There were no other expeditions on the five taller peaks that day. We had been the highest humans on the planet. Mike Heydon is a commercial photographer, film-maker and climber, and is the proud owner of two terriers and 11 sheep. He loves travelling and discovering new missions off the beaten track. www.jetproductions.co.nz
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